22 February 2014

Zambia: Prisons Suppliers Up in Arms Over Payments

SOME suppliers to the Zambia Prisons Service have written to President Michael Sata seeking his intervention in the manner payments are made by the Prisons authorities.

The suppliers claim that there has been discrimination after being sidelined in the recent disbursement of funds where the old list of suppliers was allegedly ignored in preference for the new one.

This follows payment of K10 million to food suppliers that has been characterised by accusations of corruption after some officials involved in its distribution allegedly ignored the first-come-first-serve arrangement agreed between suppliers and the Government.

The two parties went into a 'gentleman's agreement' in 2011 where the payment to companies delivering supplies to Zambia Prisons and the Zambia Police would follow the first-come-first-serve arrangement to avoid confusion.

The aggrieved suppliers said some of their representatives had connived with officials in the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as at the Prisons Service in Kabwe to pay suppliers who recently delivered their commodities.

This is despite having a long list of suppliers who delivered in 2010 and 2011 who should have been a priority.

"The problem that we have is that the people mandated to pay this money are suppliers also, and for this reason, they are paying themselves every time the Government releases some money," said one of the suppliers who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation.

"So we want the President to intervene and immediately send investigators because some of these people are using the name of the Patriotic Front in order to get paid when in fact they are just corrupt."

He alleged that the money which was recently released was paid to suppliers who delivered the commodity in 2013 and 2014 when there was a backlog of 2010, 2011 and 2012.

Ministry of Home Affairs spokesperson, Moses Suwali said it was disappointing that reports of corruption were emerging even after the agreement between the ministry and the food suppliers to follow the first-come-first-serve arrangement.

"This amounts to corruption if indeed that is what is happening," Mr Suwali said.

"There is an agreement that first-come-first-serve will be followed every time the money is released and it is unfortunate that such reports are still emerging."

Mr Suwali said the ministry would institute investigations and warned officers responsible for the disbursement that they would be dealt with accordingly if found wanting.

"It is the desire of the ministry of ensuring that corruption is

removed in the disbursement of money to suppliers. I, therefore, urge all suppliers with this information to bring to the PR office to help us investigate," he said.

It is not the first time that the payment to suppliers has been embroiled in corruption allegations after the Zambia Prisons last year decided to pay hefty amounts to suppliers who delivered commodities in 2012 and lesser amounts for 2010 and 2012 lists.

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