ZAMBIA Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) director general Edwin Matokwani and four other senior officials have been dropped for alleged corrupt practices in awarding Safari hunting concessions.
Tourism and Arts Minister Sylvia Masebo said in Lusaka yesterday that ZAWA had awarded hunting concessions to a family cartel among others, a move which had significant potential to promote money laundering.
Ms Masebo has since advised Government investigative wings to institute investigations and prosecute culprits immediately.
She has also directed ZAWA to cancel the tender and ensure non publication of purported successful bidders.
The fired officers are Mr Matokwani, acting director conservation Melody Zeko, acting commercial director Rose Chivumba, acting director finance Andrew Sampa and head of procurement Taulino Banda.
Government has since appointed an interim management team to replace the fired officers and was currently expediting the appointment of the new ZAWA board that would in turn advertise and recruit substantive management staff.
Mr Matokwani's phone was answered by another person who asked this reporter to call later insisting that the former director general was driving. Later, the phone went unanswered.
Mr Matokwani was appointed in 2010 and took over from Dr Lewis Saiwana who was relieved of his duties a year earlier.
Ms Masebo said management had handpicked the companies without consulting Community Resource Boards (CRBs) and key stakeholder such as chiefs.
Arising from this, the chiefs presented a petition to President Michael Sata.
She said the Government would not promote business cartels and "under-handed mafia style" dealings which seemed to have become normal in the previous MMD administration.
On December 26 this year, ZAWA management presented to Ms Masebo a list of companies for publication as successful bidders for 19 hunting blocs in various game management areas as re-advertised.
Out of 19 advertised licences, 13 were awarded to Zambians with foreign origins while only one was given to an indigenous Zambian.
"When you analyse and look at records at PACRA, it is easy for ZAWA to see that the people or companies awarded with the tenders are related. You find that it is a son, uncle, in-law kind of arrangement and as Government, we have been talking about equal distribution of wealth," Ms Masebo said.
She said there were dubious dealings that took place during the awarding of the tenders.
"Some of the companies which submitted bids in the tender process were companies that should have been considered as associated companies with cross shareholding and directors related to one another contrary to the prescribed tender rules.
"In this regard, the tender committee failed to perform their duties diligently" Ms Masebo said.
She said ZAWA management went against the tender rules because there was leakage of information during evaluation process.
She noted that most companies that were successful at preliminary stage of the valuation were disqualified on account of the bid security validity being less than the stated number of 120 days.
The minister said the entire allocation process ignored consideration of the PF manifesto which took into account the empowerment of indigenous Zambians to participate in the management of their natural resources.
"Some participating companies put up fronts with the intention to unduly influence the results of the tender process. When one critically analyses the suggested results of tender evaluation process, you will note that it has significant potential to promote money laundering," Ms Masebo said.