Zambia govt under pressure to explain StarTimes contract

Thursday 8 February 2018 | 12:45 CET | News

The Zambia branch of global civil society organisation Transparency International has demanded an explanation by the government as to why it chose only China's StarTimes to work on the country's digital migration process. The organisation's president Reuben Lifuka said the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament should thoroughly examine the matter and ensure that all those involved appear before it for questioning. 

The anti-corruption watchdog has also demanded a breakdown of the USD 273 million loan received from China for the digital migration project and details on how this resource is going to be used. It has further challenged the Zambian government to explain if the law had been changed to allow TopStar, 60 percent owned by StarTimes, to be both the content carrier and signal distributor. 

Zambia's President Edgar Lungu is accused of directing the choice of StarTimes and inflating the cost of the country's second and third phases of the digital migration project. Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Chishimba Kambwili alleges that Lungu cancelled the bidding process for the project in order to personally benefit from it. Chief government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga acknowledges that the digital migration project was single-sourced but denies there was corruption involved. 

Zambia will repay the USD 273 million in 25 years through TopStar which is also 40 percent owned by the national broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC). According to the deal, TopStar will collect all ZNBC advertising and tower rental revenue for the duration of the loan agreement. 

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