First Quantum Minerals (FQM) has said that it is surprised and dismayed by a statement issued by Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) attempting to discredit the renowned economist Prof. Oliver Saasa.
In a statement made available to the media in reaction to TIZ statement questioning Prof Saasa’s non-disclosure of conflict of interest, FQM called upon TIZ to retract its statement and apologise unreservedly to Prof. Saasa.
The firm said that Prof. Saasa’s company Premier Consult was commissioned by First Quantum Minerals to
evaluate and explain the impact of the company’s US$1.35 billion expansion plans on the Zambian economy.
FQM further added that the Premier Consult team was given full independence to conduct their research impartially and with integrity to ensure a credible professional view of the investment, and to ensure
transparency, First Quantum’s engagement of the consultancy was clearly stated in the report.
“Professor Saasa is one of Zambia’s most experienced and learned economists. To question his integrity and suggest he and his company would work with anything less than the utmost integrity and transparency is an insult to his professional standing and to that of any other senior government adviser who will inevitably have long-standing experience and associations with various organisations. Indeed, it is that experience that enables them to provide invaluable insight for the benefit of the nation,” said FQM Country Manager General Kingsley Chinkuli.
“First Quantum calls upon Transparency International Zambia to retract its statement and
apologise unreservedly to Prof. Saasa, ” concluded the statement
Yesterday, TIZ issued a statement noting with concern the conflict of interest in the awarding of the First Quantum Minerals (FQM) Ltd.’s US$1.3 billion expansion investment evaluation consultancy to Prof. Oliver Saasa through his consultancy firm, Premier Consult.
TIZ Chapter President Sampa Kalungu said that his organization’s concern stems from the fact that Prof. Saasa is the chairperson of the Economic Advisory Council, having been appointed by President Hakainde Hichilema, and in that position, he provides advice to the President on economic matters.
Mr Kalunga said that the recommendations from the evaluation of FQM are crucial in informing the government on its next actions with regard to the country’s mining sector and overall economic development.
“It is therefore of grave concern that an individual who is meant to guide the President on the economic decisions pertaining to the country, is on the other end, evaluating the country’s largest taxpayer on its investment in the country. As TI-Z, we have serious concerns bordering on how sure the government can be that the recommendations given about FQM will be based on an independent and unbiased assessment, given the clear ties Premier Consult has as an evaluator of FQM,” he said.
“Additionally, questions can arise on whether the awarding of the consultancy itself was impartial given Prof. Saasa’s position as chair of the President’s Economic Advisory Council, and his potential interest to advise the President in a particular direction. It is our considered view that Prof. Saasa ought to have declared interest in this consultancy project, or altogether detached himself from it given the existing and clear interest.”
He stated that his organization’s concern is not about the capacity of Premium Consult to do the work in terms of their qualifications and experience, but rather about the broader principles of accountability and transparency in this matter.
“We, therefore, urge government officials and advisors to the President to be as transparent as possible in their dealings so as to allay any concerns and speculation related to their personal interests, which may potentially lead to doubts about their credibility and impartiality.
We further urge State House to provide clarity and assurance on Premier Consult’s involvement in the FQM evaluation, in relation to the conflict of interest involving the chair of the President’s Economic Advisory Council,” he added.