TWO members of a committee formed to establish a national airline for Zambia have been ejected for resisting attempts to impose an expensive airline that would involve billions of Kwacha.
They preferred and canvassed for cost-effective public private partnership arrangement of funding in which Government would retain interest without subjecting the Treasury to massive expenditure but been ignored.
However the committee has reportedly taken the most expensive option to the Ministry of Finance.
Apparently two proposals from two European countries which offered to help Zambia establish a national airline without spending money, were thrown out without any justification in preference for one that would require Government to fork out huge amounts of money to purchase aircraft, plant and equipment.
Some of the companies apart from helping Zambia set up a national airline had committed themselves to make Lusaka a regional hub of their aviation activities and training centre with close ties with Dubai.
A source within the committee has revealed that a number of companies had offered to assist Zambia establish a national airline and the best terms came from a company that had proposed Government to own 75 percent of the airline with the sponsoring company purchasing the equipment, aircraft and plant machinery.
The Daily Nation has been informed that the terms of the best company included the opportunity for Lusaka to serve as the hub, for a continental and intercontinental service which would have included training, serving and linkage including the use of modern aero planes for 25 years before Government could start paying.
“We are disappointed that this proposal which was the best was rejected and put aside in preference for one where Government would spend a lot of money purchasing the aircraft, equipment and plant machinery.
‘‘And as a result of the tension
within the committee over the manner the preferred offer was handled, two members have been ejected,” the source said.
The source stated that one of the ejected members has since appealed to Government to undertake a high-level independent and impartial assessment of the project to determine the best modality because there was a real danger that the country could be lumped with a huge debt burden, considering that most of the airlines in the region were loss-making.
But when contacted, Minister of Transport and Communication Kapembwa Simbao said he was not aware that Government had received two offers from foreign airline companies to help Zambia set up a national airline. Mr Simbao however said when he was appointed Minister of Transport and Communication two months ago, he found that consultations about identifying a company to assist Zambia establish a national airline had already started and that Secretary to Cabinet Roland Msiska was chairing the committee. He said he was only going to make a comment after finding out how far the process had gone and referred the query to Dr Msiska. Dr Msiska could however not be reached for comment as his mobile phone was on Sunday switched off and it went unanswered yesterday.
Another source close to the process said: “Zambia received many offers but that the most expensive route appeared to be the option of choice because some people would benefit from the deal to the disadvantage of the country.” ‘‘It is surprising, however, the committee constituted to spearhead the process has opted for the offer that ties the Treasury to the deal. Some people are personally interested in this deal and as we speak, two directors who advised against the deal at the Ministry of Transport and Communication have been removed and are waiting to be redeployed,” the source said.
Stakeholders in the aviation sector were shocked at the decision by the committee established to set up a national airline and fear that the project could fail. “We have an offer that has no financial implication on the part of Government because the company that has offered knows and understands the country’s aviation sector. If this company was considered, the project could take off immediately with all the expertise.