Masebo breached labour law, claims Harrington

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MINISTER of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo (middle) after appearing before the tribunal at Supreme Court in Lusaka yesterday. – Picture by COLLINS PHIRI.
MINISTER of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo (middle) after appearing before the tribunal at Supreme Court in Lusaka yesterday. – Picture by COLLINS PHIRI.

FORMER Minister of Tourism and Environment William Harrington yesterday told a tribunal set up to probe alleged professional misconduct by Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo that she breached the law when she allegedly sacked five senior managers from the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
But former Ministry of Tourism and Arts permanent secretary Charity Mwansa yesterday told the tribunal that
Ms Masebo used her inherent powers to relieve the ZAWA director general and other senior officials.
Mr Harrington, who is the complainant, was the first to testify before the Rhoyda Kaoma tribunal which started sitting yesterday.
He said Ms Masebo had no mandate to remove any ZAWA official from employment as only the board had the authority to do so.
Mr Harrington said it is a breach of the Parliamentary and Ministerial Code of Conduct for a minister to remove or influence the removal of officers from Government institutions.
He said there was no board at the ZAWA at the time but that the minister has the mandate to ensure that a board is appointed and that it picks a director general who is responsible for the appointment of other members of staff in the authority.
Mr Harrington said the tribunal should establish that Ms Masebo interfered and abused the authority of her office when she allegedly decided to cancel a tender process and withdraw the tender for a hunting concession licence.
He said that canceling and drafting of tenders is the duty of the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA).
Mr Harrington said Ms Masebo should have reported any acts of suspected corruption to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in the tender process at ZAWA.
“She should have referred the allegations of corruption to investigating wings so that they could take corrective measures. She said she would do that but to date, no one has been prosecuted,” he said.
And former ZAWA head of procurement Taulino Banda said it was un-procedural for Ms Masebo to cancel the tender process and order another.
Mr Banda said there was no provision in the law which allowed a minister to cancel the tender process and call for fresh tenders to be submitted.
He said a new tender was floated and that 19 hunting blocks were advertised and that the Ministry of Tourism prepared the tender document and the only role he played was to ensure that the document complied with the Zambia Public Procurement Act.
He said the tender was cancelled after some bidders reported concerns in the tender process to Ms Masebo.
Mr Banda said he was directed by his supervisor to facilitate the suspension of the tender process to allow the minister to study the process.
And Ms Mwansa, 61, who is now ministry of Mines, Energy and Water Development permanent secretary said even though there was no ZAWA board in 2012, Ms Masebo had powers to fire the officers.
She said she is the one who wrote the letters terminating the officers’ contracts on December 30, 2012 because as administrator of the ministry, she was trying to bring legal efficacy to ZAWA.
“I did not act outside the law but the minister and I used inherent powers. I did not break the law but we interpreted the law when writing to the officials,” Ms Mwansa said.
She said her job was to do the right thing by writing to the officers even though the minister had announced their dismissal at a press briefing.
Ms Mwansa said when there is no board at the institution, the institution falls under the custody of the ministry “and I found it fit to sign the letters terminating the contracts of employment.”
The tribunal continues sitting today.

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