RDA management accuses board chair of interfering with operations

ROAD Development Agency (RDA)

RDA management accuses board chair of interfering with operations

By Ernest Chanda

ROAD Development Agency (RDA) board chairman Mulchand Kuntawala is interfering in the day-to-day operations of the agency by directly selecting local contractors to be paid by National Road Fund Agency (NRFA) for completed works, according to numerous correspondences seen.

But Kuntawala, who dismissed the allegation, said he does not want to be distracted from the job he was appointed to do.

According to sources within NRFA, the procedure has always been that before any contractor is paid for the completed works, the RDA chief executive officer sends correspondence to the NFRA chief executive officer, confirming selection of the contractor after successful completion of works and certification.

The sources accused Kuntawala of abusing the authority of his office by usurping the powers of the management team at RDA led by the chief executive officer.

“You see, the chairman for RDA like any other board for a parastatal or quasi government institution is to provide policy direction. Board members are not executive positions, and so, they are not involved in operational matters of the institutions,” the source explained. “But something strange seems to be happening at RDA because the correspondences for payments are being counter-signed by their chairman Mr Kuntawala. But the question is in which capacity is the board chairman approving payments? That is like a board chairman of the bank approving loans…where on earth? Surely, this is an abuse of the authority of office by the Kabwe-based trucker. The board chairman is supposed to be leading his board members by giving strategic direction to RDA and not to be in charge of the day-to-day operations.”

The source accused Kuntawala of abusing the authority of office.

“You guys in the media should ask the board chairman why he is getting himself involved in the operations – why he is behaving like he’s an executive chairman for RDA. Ask him why he is sitting more frequently than the previous board? The main problem is that he’s creating fertile ground for corruption because RDA has always had a system of paying contractors for the works done,” the source explained. “So, very soon payments to contractors would be about who knows the board chairman and not who’s deserving. For the government that is preaching strongly against corruption and also promoting good governance, one would not expect such practices but here we are!”

And in a number of letters for the allocation of funding under the 2022 road sector annual work plan seen, the letter from the RDA chief executive officer to the NRFA director and chief executive officer, Kuntawala has had to sign confirming approval.

“The ‘approved by’ sign on the correspondence is just a cover-up by Mr Kuntawala but the truth of the matter is that he is the one selecting contractors to be paid. As you know the RDA does not have a substantive director. So the acting CEO is just surrendering the role of selecting the contractor to the board chairman. One would have expected that such abuse of authority of office practices ended with the Patriotic Front but it’s a pity that it has continued even in the new dawn government,” the source complained.

Kuntawala was appointed to head the RDA board in December 2021.

Last September, Kuntawala announced that he had fired former chief executive officer George Manyele and replaced him with director planning and design Grace Mutembo in an acting position.

And Kuntawala said the board is only trying to run RDA professionally.

‘’That (allegation) you know is not true. The board chair looks after the affairs of the shareholders because the board and board chair are appointed by the shareholders to oversee the processes for the shareholder, in this case the shareholder is the government. And we know what has been happening in the past. So we bring in things and normalise things, issues and systems,” he explained.

“I do not want to be distracted from the job we have been given to run RDA professionally as an engineering institution. It’s a very specialised institution, a very technically biased institution. And that was not happening. So we’re making sure things are done the correct way, the right way.”

Kuntawala denied ever taking over management functions, adding that he does not prepare work schedules.

“And it’s not the board chair who prepares the schedules, no. The schedules are prepared by management. They discuss themselves then there’s an oversight procedure or process where we sit together and say ‘okay are the requirements on projects the priorities; are we maintaining the funding?’ That’s it,” he said. “So, it’s not a process where the chairman prepares and sits and says ‘this is what you do’, no. That’s not democracy. But that is not true. Just to illustrate, if I want to make an issue for you, I can go to another media institution and say ‘uh, this gentleman reporting he was bulldozing me. He was saying if you don’t do this I’m going to put headlines on you, whatever’. But did you do that to me? No. So, you see, to make an allegation it’s very simple because the sky is the limit. Now I can fabricate anything I want.’’

Kuntawala said it is unfortunate that people can says things about him which he is not doing.

“So, you see, people will say things the way they want to because they have nothing to lose. They’ll just say things they want to say. So these are the unfortunate parts where people can just say whatever they want even if there’s not an iota of truth but they just…somebody might have gotten fired by management, whatever. And then they say let us now…it’s time in this new era, dispensation you can say what you want – ‘let’s just make things uncomfortable for him’,” explained Kuntawala


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