General

Zambia to sell $194.9M presidential plane purchased by previous government

Zambia will offload a presidential plane purchased for $194.9 million by the previous government because of colossal maintenance and servicing costs, a government official said Thursday.

"The maintenance and servicing of the aircraft has cost the Treasury more than $6.3 million in the last three years despite limited use for presidential travel, hence the government's decision to sell off the asset albeit at a loss," Defense Minister Ambrose Lufuma told Parliament.

Lufuma alleged that the procurement of the aircraft was completed by the Edgar Lungu-led regime at a cost of $60 million above market value while following "dubious" procurement processes.

"The Gulfstream was purchased at an exorbitant price of $194.9 million inclusive of the accessories, from a $400 million loan acquired from the Israel Discount Bank for the modernization of the Zambia army, air force and national service. The jet, whose market value was $55 million, was purchased at $70 million while $50 million was paid for a J-Music upgrade," he said.

Lufuma said it was not in the best interest of Zambians and the government to maintain the aircraft because of a cash-strapped Treasury. After the disposal of the aircraft, another presidential aircraft would be procured at much lower operational and maintenance costs.

Getting rid of the aircraft was among Lungu's successor, Hakainde Hichilema's, election campaign promises ahead of the August 2021 poll with the incumbent citing that the purchase deal was corruption marred.

The decision would, however, require parliamentary approval in line with laws governing the disposal of state assets.

Lufuma said the Anti-Corruption Commission was probing the matter.

Former Defense chief under Lungu, Stardy Mwale, was arrested and charged on three counts of willful failure to comply with applicable law and procedure and fraudulent facilitation of payment from public revenue.

He was released on bond pending a court appearance.

Source: Anadolu Agency