SWEDISH Ambassador to Zambia Anna Maj Hultgård has warned that her government’s relations with Zambia will not be able to survive if scandals continue to happen in the Ministry of Health.
But Health Minister Dr Jonas Chanda has assured her that there are changes at his ministry, such as a new permanent secretary, which will restore public confidence.
Speaking during a virtual meeting, Ambassador Hultgård said her government had a zero tolerance policy for corruption and respected tax payers’ money.
She said irregularities needed to be immediately addressed in order to sustain relations.
“I think what is worth stressing from our perspective and from my perspective in particular is the transparency and accountability that was mentioned. Of course it is something that underpins all our partnership and our work. Globally, we have a zero tolerance on corruption. We have systems in place with both in internal controls but strong expectations of partners in terms of financial accountability. And I think the basis for this is our understanding that we respect tax payers’ money, there is always a discussion within Parliament of our development cooperation. And any corruption matters will be discussed and addressed and in the Swedish media in general. And that is why it is in our best interest to have measures and guidelines in place. I think that the message that we have heard with your ministry, honourable minister, and we have heard all this within a few other areas, there is focus in Sweden on Zambia I think it was clearly put by the head of the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) who was here a year ago before the pandemic, we did meet. And it was very clear from our heads at SIDA headquarters that we will not be able to survive in our relationship if anything more of this kind of major scandals would occur.
“We would like those to be addressed immediately so that we will be able to continue with the strong relationship and not have the consequences or reactions from the headquarters that will mean the end of the relationship here. Very important message from our side. We look very much forward to also support and engage continuously in a close partnership to see all the funds are well used and all internal controls in is place to safeguard those funds. I am very hopeful that we’ll overcome this, that we will work together to make sue sure that transparency and accountability are there.”
Ambassador Hultgård said it was important for aid to reach the poor and most vulnerable.
“We are in Zambia the second largest bilateral donor and I think we appreciate very much the dialogue that we are able to have. Thank you so much honorable minister for acknowledging the importance of health care and equal health for all. And in particular to ensure that women, children and adolescents have access to service, resilient primary health care systems. I think it is very important for us to reach the poor and the most vulnerable. Let me also mention honorable minister that we have a strong priority on sexual reproductive health and rights and gender equality,” said Ambassador Hultgård.
“The focus we have on preventing teenage pregnancy is the way to ensure that young women and girls have access to non-discriminatory and adolescent friendly services. And easy access to modern contraceptives and safe abortion services. I think these are in particular important to follow closely in the pandemic and in the situation where schools have been closed for some time and also to understand the effect it has. And the nutrition of course that you mentioned. Honorable minister, I would like to underline honorable minister. We would like to mention that we are very pleased with the standing we have with the priorities in these areas.”
In response, Dr Chanda assured that the changes in his ministry would boost transparency and accountability.
“Your Excellency, I want to thank you for a very frank discussion. I think Sweden as a friend to Zambia and friends are frank with each other and that is the kind of relationship that we want to have even to the most uncomfortable discussions, because together we shall overcome. As you are aware I am only three weeks old in this ministry and today we have a new permanent sectary for Administration in the ministry. So having a new team, the minister, and also the permanent secretary technical services Dr Malama, the mandate given to me by His Excellency Dr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia is to restore confidence to the Zambian people in the public health care system and the Ministry of Health itself,” said Dr Chanda.
“To restore confidence to our cooperating partners like yourself, the Swedish government and others. I must mention that I have met a lot of Ambassadors, the United State Charge D’affaires [David Young], the United Kingdom Ambassador [Nicolas] Woolley, I have met the Japanese Ambassador the European Union Ambassador, the Chinese Ambassador because we want to reassure the cooperating partners that we are here to serve the Zambian people and we greatly value your support and I want to reiterate that whatever measures that will be taken in the Ministry of Health will be aimed to restore that confidence but also targeted to ensure that we have transparency and accountability at the core so that the Swedish tax payers’ can be reassured but also the Zambian people that the services the financial and material resources are meant for their good.”