National Restoration party (NAREP) president Elias Chipimo says there is need for greater transparency around the source of the K10.4 million Presidential Empowerment Fund which the Patriotic Front (PF) has used to empower 7 000 people across the country since 2015.

In an interview with News Diggers today, Chipimo also said for as long as such a huge responsibility to oversee the personal funds on behalf of the first family was tasked to a public service worker, there was an element of taxpayers’ money being used to further the personal partisan political aims of the President.

Last week, Presidential Empowerment Initiative patron Chanda Kabwe said the funds were coming from the first family which was contributing 10 per cent of their earnings every month.

Kabwe who is also Central Province Permanent Secretary said the initiative was non-political and challenged those who were suspecting that the project was using government resources to show proof.

“The Presidential Empowerment Initiative is a non-political initiative. We have not used not even a single Ngwee from government and I challenge anyone who has the information that we are using government monies to empower the people in the informal sector to expose us. I want to assure you my dear colleagues and the nation that we are not using government resources,” Kabwe said.

But in reacting to Kabwe’s claims, Chipimo said it was not possible that the first family’s 10 percent contribution in three years could amount to K10.4 million.

“As NAREP we are always encouraged by gestures of giving and we support all efforts to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Zambians facing hardship in our current economic difficulties. However, this story about the funding of the Presidential Empowerment Initiative Fund by the First Family is troubling on many levels. First of all, in order to give away 10 percent of earnings amounting to K10 million (or one million dollars) over a 3 year period (which is how long President Lungu has been in office as president) would mean that the president and his family have earned over 10 million dollars since he came into office,” Chipimo said.

“For Mr. Kabwe as permanent secretary of Central Province to say that government funds are not being used is incorrect. As long as a permanent secretary is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing or administering this personal fund on behalf of the First Family then there is an element of taxpayer money being used to further the personal partisan political aims of the President. This is because using a government official to run personal errands raises all sorts of conflicts.”

He said the presidential empowerment initiative/fund was only a campaign effort being masked as humanitarian gesture.

“The first question to ask is which business, let alone which individual family in Zambia, is earning over 3 million dollars a year? Secondly, if indeed these have been the earnings of the First Family, we are entitled to know how this equates to the salary of the President and if not, what business he and his family are into that can generate such massive earnings. Thirdly, ordinary, hard working Zambians are being taxed heavily to fund government operations. It would only be fair to ask whether and what, if any, tax has been paid by the First Family on these massive earnings they have somehow been able to muster over the few years the President has been in power,” he said.

Chipimo called for a clear separation between the role of a government official and that of the administration of President Lungu’s personal fund.

“It is only right that Zambians demand the tax returns on these earnings. Fourthly, this is not an officially recognized fund and is a personal initiative. It should not therefore be something that the taxpayer is responsible for. Finally, this is clearly a presidential campaign effort being masked as humanitarian gesture. There must be greater transparency around the source of these monies. There should also be a clear separation between the role of a government official and the administration of this personal fund,” Chipimo added.

Meanwhile Chipimo said his Twenty Percent Generation Plan (TPG) would work well to build true and lasting empowerments to benefit every Zambian.

“NAREP has clearly set out what needs to be done to build true and lasting empowerment that benefits everyone. The initiative is called TPG or the Twenty Percent Generation Plan. Through TPG, there will be no partisan connections to the distribution of financial support; there will be clear government accountability; there will be involvement of civil society and the private sector to prevent partisan bias; small businesses in all sectors will be supported; street vendors will voluntarily leave the streets; all Zambians will benefit,” said Chipimo.