Taxpayers could foot an estimated K280 million bill for renovations to the wing of the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development headquarters damaged by a suspicious fire.
The ministry’s chief director, Bright Kumwembe, gave the picture of the estimated cost in an interview on the sidelines of a meeting between the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament and ministry officials.
Revelations about the cost come amid reports at the just-ended public service reforms sectoral review conference that all government buildings are not insured.
The fire at the ministry’s building at Capital Hill gutted the office of the then minister George Chaponda, who is currently in court in connection with the controversial importation of maize from Zambia.
The minister’s wing was gutted under suspicious circumstances in February this year, but a report on the cause of the fire is yet to be released to the public.
In an interview on Tuesday, Kumwembe said the relevant government institution, the Buildings Department under Ministry of Transport and Public Infrastructure, has made calculations on how much it would cost to start using the ministry’s wing again.
He said: “The request to renovate the building has been made under the appropriate office to make sure that money is available to us. But, other than that, there is goodwill from the cooperating partners, especially the European Union Delegation, which have pointed to the fact that they can assist us.”
Kumwembe said discussions were underway with some donors to help Capital Hill finance the reconstruction.
Apart from electrical challenges, Kumwembe said the other offices that were not directly affected have a lot of smoke on the walls and the hard smell makes the offices dangerous in terms of the health of the occupants.
Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development officials appeared before the Budget and Finance Committee to present on the performance of the 2016/17 budget and outlook for the 2017/18 financial year. n