By Ernest Chanda
ZESCO managing director Victor Mundende has complained over the composition of a team of experts appointed to investigate the current nationwide power blackouts.
The Energy Regulation Board (ERB) has appointed a team of engineers to inquire and establish reasons the country has been experiencing prolonged power blackouts.
But Mundende wrote Engineering Institution of Zambia president Abel Ng’andu, wondering why, among other things, the team constituted former Zesco employees who “left the Corporation under acrimonious circumstances”.
“…However, we would like to register our concern and dismay at the way this ‘team of experts’ was selected and constituted and consequently, the manner in which they have conducted themselves since the process began,” he said in a letter dated November 19, 2021. “Our understanding is that an inquiry of this nature would normally have a broad representation of engineering experts drawn from diverse disciplines. We are however surprised that this particular ‘team of experts’ is composed almost entirely of a clique of former ZESCO Senior Management staff who include the current Chief Executive Officer of EIZ, Mr. Linus Chanda (formerly Director General) and headed by his close confidant and friend of many years Mr. Cyprian Chitundu, who also happens to be the former Managing Director of ZESCO.”
Mundende cited other names which he claimed were part of the clique.
“In addition, we note the presence of Mr Clement Siame whom was the protégé of Mr Chitundu and previously Senior Manager for Electro-technical services. In addition to this is Mr Cosmas Mweenda, who served as Power Station Manager at Kariba North Bank Power Station and later as Senior Manager, System Operations at ZESCO,” Mundende added. “It is also no secret, that notwithstanding the competence of these former ZESCO employees, it is worth noting that they all left the Corporation under acrimonious circumstances. It is therefore quite clear to any observer that this faction of former ZESCO employees have an axe to grind with the current ZESCO management.”
Mundende wondered how the ERB came up with what he termed a biased team.
He also said the team should have been headed by a person with no conflict of interest.
“We wonder, then, how the ERB could have provided a biased selection of experts with narrow interests in the constitution of the investigation panel. We therefore have reason to fear that under the guise of this tribunal constituted by ERB, professionalism and impartiality are being sacrificed and therefore leading to compromising the integrity and outcomes of the process and thereby negating national interest,” he said. “As we believe that the EIZ was consulted in the selection of the individuals, we would have expected that the composition would be more broad-based, impartial and especially headed by a chairperson who has no conflict of interest concerning an institution he once served.”
Mundede further cited a lack of clearly defined terms of reference and short notice.
According to Mundende, on November 16, ZESCO management received a directive from ERB to appear before the committee of experts.
“On 16th November 2021, we received a directive by the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) summoning ZESCO Management and Staff to appear before a ‘team of experts’ apparently constituted to carry out investigations into the recent nationwide power blackouts. Whilst we appreciate and commend this initiative to clarify these matters, we, however note the short notice that was given to ZESCO,” Mundede stated. “In the first place, in comparison to previous instances of similar inquiries, we note the absence of clearly defined terms of reference. It is normal practice that when such committees are formed, the terms of reference would be clearly spelt out affording respondents the ability to understand the height and breadth of the inquiry. In this case, we get the impression that there are no limits, and some questions can also get very personal, and totally unpredictable in some cases. This is evident from the manner in which the process has been conducted so far. The atmosphere is very hostile and clearly defined to intimidate ZESCO staff. We wonder how in such an atmosphere objectivity can be preserved.”
Mundende charged that the short notice was deliberately designed to elicit specific answers from Zesco.
“Additionally, the short notice given seems to have been deliberately designed to elicit an engagement that does not necessarily speak to the key objectives of such an inquiry. In this case, we note that the letter by ERB carries the date of 15 November 2021 and was only received by mid-morning of the 16 November 2021,” he complained. “We wish to submit that given the short notice to ZSECO Limited and the unfortunate unprecedented and hostile atmosphere in which the inquiry is being conducted, in addition to the undeclared and unclear specific TORs, this may lead to abuse of the process.”
Mundende charged that some members of the team had vested interest, hence making it unbalanced.
“It has sadly come to our attention that some members of the ‘team of experts’ have a vested interest in discrediting the Corporation or its management in the process of this inquiry. To this extent, we have evidence of attempts by some members of the investigative panel to solicit for clandestine meetings with some ZESCO staff outside of the prescribed formal meeting parameters,” claimed Mundende. “We do not have the total number of ZESCO staff that may have been approached in this manner but for those that we are aware of, their refusal to meet members of this committee in private circumstances has been met with open intimidation including threats of possible jail terms. We are in possession of this evidence which can be adduced if required. In view of the foregoing, ZESCO wishes to express its utmost dismay and disappointment that a process which is naturally meant to enhance engineering professionalism in the Electricity Supply Industry and meant for the good of the nation, has now been hijacked by a few individuals who have definite conflict of interest. We therefore appeal through your good office to urgently intervene in this matter to protect the integrity of the engineering profession.”
Story: The Mast Newspaper