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China's Star Software Technologies faces corruption probe in Zambia

Michael Malakata | Oct. 3, 2013
Case highlights growing controversy

China's Star Software Technologies Co. is facing a probe in Zambia over the manner in which a tender for the country's digital migration project for broadcasting was awarded to the company.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said it has started investigating how the company was awarded the tender. The ACC is also involved in another probe, against ZTE, over the manner in which the company was awarded a closed circuit television (CCTV) camera contract, which was also terminated over corruption allegations.

Zambian lawmakers have been pushing the government to prosecute the companies. The Southern Africa country has already cancelled the $220 million tender for the digital migration project.

The Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) advised the government to cancel the tender alleging corruption in the manner the tender was awarded. The ACC has moved in to probe the company and senior government officials that were involved in the awarding of the digital migration tender.

ACC public relations manager Timothy Moono said although his commission has not yet received any documents from the Zambian government pertaining to the cancellation of the tender, the ACC has instituted an investigation into the matter.

"The ACC has received a number of queries regarding this matter. It is in this light that I wish to advise that the commission has instituted investigations into the matter," Moono said.

Last week, opposition lawmakers quizzed the country's vice president, Guy Scott, on why the ACC had not begun an investigation into the alleged fraud in the awarding of the tender.

The inquiry will not derail the country's digital migration plans, Scott said. "The cancellation of the tender would not affect Zambia's attainment of the June, 2015 deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) for all countries to switch over to digital television."

Star officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

The cancellation of the digital migration tender comes within a month of the cancellation of the Zambian government's termination of ZTE's CCTV contract over corruption allegations, underscoring the growing controversy surrounding the awarding of ICT contracts to Chinese firms in Africa.

The $210 million CCTV camera project that was awarded to ZTE was terminated last month. The project was initiated by the Ministry of Home Affairs to assist with crime prevention, traffic management and general monitoring of the streets of the capital, Lusaka.

Industry insiders say the termination of Chinese tenders in Zambia over corruption allegations puts pressure on Chinese companies to show they can participate in telecom bid in the region without resorting to bribes.

Chinese telecom companies have been facing numerous corruption allegations around Africa because of the manner in which telecom contracts are awarded to them.


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