Corruption allegations cloud Zambia's digital migration


Zambia's President Edgar Lungu has been accused of inflating the cost of the second and third phases of the country's digital migration project.

Former Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Chishimba Kambwili alleges that Lungu cancelled the bidding process of the project in order to personally benefit from it.

He told the media during his time as Minister, he wondered why Lungu decided to single source China's StarTimes to implement the project. He added that he had later discovered that the cost of the project had been inflated.

The Minister asked why the government borrowed US$273 million for digital migration in six provinces when the cost of the project was less than US$25 million according to submissions by bidders prior to the project being cancelled.

"President Lungu gave instruction to discontinue the tendering process so that the digital migration exercise is single-sourced to StarTimes. I called companies that had submitted bids and they told me that the US$273 million government borrowed from China for digital migration project was too much," Kambwili said.

President Lungu said he would not respond to the allegations as they are meant to derail his effort of implementing developmental projects and would not be distracted "by people who make baseless allegations of corruption each time the government unveils big projects".

"Government remains resolved in ensuring that it delivers according to the promises it has made to the Zambian people," Lungu said.

Chief government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga acknowledged that the digital migration project was single-sourced but denied there was corruption involved.

Zambia will repay the US$273 million loan in 25 years through a digital television company TopStar, 60% of which is owned by StarTimes and 40% owned by the national broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC).

According to the deal, TopStar will collect all ZNBC advertising and tower rental revenue for the duration of the loan agreement.