The overwhelmed Roads Contractor Company (RCC) board and management has embarrassed itself twice before its newly installed minister, John Mutorwa, having initially lied that their decision to partner with the Chinese had been advised by their lawyers only to fail to provide proof to that effect when requested to do so.
This is after the minister had showed some semblance of trust in the loss making company, soon after taking his office at the ministry of works saying that it deserves another chance for its new business model to see the light of the day.
The RCC is under fire for striking an agreement with a Chinese owned Jiangsu Nantong Sanjian Construction Group Company Limited without prior approval of the line minister and the legal opinion of Attorney General Albert Kawana.
RCC has been left with egg in the face after, based on the legal opinion of Kawana penned in a 17-page document and decisions taken at a high level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila finally resulted in the agreement being declared invalid and unenforceable in law.
Speaking to the media yesterday Mutorwa disclosed that he asked at a meeting why the agreement with the Chinese was entered into without his prior approval and input from the AG to which RCC failed to provide a solid answer.
“I don’t think we got an answer there (laughs). How do you get an answer if you know that you’ve plundered? But then we persisted, it was a long meeting. But it was clear that really (shakes head) that it was just a blunder that they probably thought they can get away with it.”
“In one of their correspondences signed by the chairperson of the board they said that they had a legal opinion from their own lawyer. Then I said let’s at least now get the legal opinion from your lawyer because the text was not available. (They) tried to check their files, it was not there,” narrated Mutorwa.
He said they had to allow them to go check for it from their office upon the board chairperson, Jacobs Fritz having said that was where they had left it.
“We waited (for), I don’t know, more than an hour. I am not dramatising, my colleagues are here. Then we phoned, we got concerned, we said but now what is happening? They said no no no our lawyer is in court (and) we said now come, just come because we don’t want the lawyer to come, just get the document. When he came there was no document,” said the minister.
Irritated by the tricks of the management and delay tactics, Mutorwa said they had to take drastic steps.
Meanwhile, RCC has been formally informed to freeze any farther implementation of the agreement and to inform their Chinese counterparts that their relationship had “immediately ceased”.
From the minister’s words, it is clear that the future of the board hangs by the noose while disciplinary action will be taken against “some persons”.
Although Mutorwa said he would not like the sudden turn of events at RCC to raise panic with its employees, but their fate too will be decided by a cabinet decision.
However, concern has been raised as to whether some RCC officials benefitted already from the deal since there is a clause within the agreement that says the entity would be given 10% after 30 days of signing it.
“I must think the Attorney General that he was very fast. In actual fact, on the 8th of May already before he could finalise his comprehensive legal opinion, we had a meeting that he chaired. That meeting was attended by the minister of Public Enterprises, myself, the deputy minister of finance.”
“Already at that meeting on the 8th of May I was mandated after that meeting to write a letter to the board of directors telling them that pending any further information that they should not move, that they should not do anything in terms of implementation of that agreement,” he said.
Mutorwa did not want to dwell on whether there was a hidden agenda behind the agreement given that it was signed while he and Kawana were in the dark.
“I do not want to get into the realm of speculation,” he said.
High profile government figures and other interested persons have been baying for the blood of the entity with voices getting louder that it be placed under judicial management or privatised.