Ministry of Information has finally paid national and community broadcasters for Covid-19 awareness messages four months after they were due.
In separate interviews yesterday, deputy director of information Arthur Chipenda and Association of Community Radio Stations chairperson Luciano Milala confirmed that the broadcasters started collecting their payments Friday last week.
Said Chipenda: “It is indeed true that payments for all broadcasters [national and community] that were engaged in Covid-19 awareness have been processed and the broadcasters are currently collecting their cheques since Friday.”
Initially, Ministry of Information Principal Secretary Francis Bisika wrote the broadcasters on August 3 2021 that they were going to start payments by the end of that month.
In the letter, he said the payment delays were a result of procurement procedural lapses at the time contracts were awarded to the broadcasters as procurement processes were supposed to follow the Public Procurement Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) guidelines issued in April 2021.
But when asked why the ministry failed to meet the August deadline, Chipenda said there were a number of internal processes that had to be undertaken.
He said there was need, among others, for the broadcasters’ payments to be first certified by the Auditor General which took time.
Milala said it was important that the ministry should have first thought of following procedures before engaging them.
“We are happy but at the same time we urge government to treat us well and they also have to follow procedures. In the next business with government we will sign agreements that if they fail to pay within the agreed timeframe we will take them to court,” he said.
The payments are for January to March 2021 and based on the agreement between the ministry and the broadcasters, they were to be made in two tranches at the end of every 30 days counting from February 28 2021.
But in August, the Ministry of Information wrote the broadcasters that some of the steps stipulated in the PPDA guidelines prescribe following of open tendering methods through publication of invitations to tender on the PPDA website and subsequently publish a list of all service providers identified to provide the services.
However, this was not done and the ministry in its capacity as chair of the communication cluster on Covid-19, engaged the PPDA to obtain authority to pay the broadcasters.
In April, the association also wrote the Ministry of Information demanding the payments, further alleging that two selected national broadcasters were paid.
But the ministry dismissed the allegations stating that no radio stations were being favoured nor did they get paid.