Thirteen civil society organisations today expressed disgust at the manner in which the PF government has continued to waste public resources on dubious contracts.

And the Civil Society Organisations have demanded that government publishes tender documents for all public projects starting with the fire tender and the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway.

Speaking at a joint press briefing today, chief executive officers and representatives from ActionAid, CTPD, Caritus Zambia, JCTR, NGOCC, TIZ, Oxfam, Alliance for Community Action, ZCSD, CSPR, CUTS, SACCORD and EAZ, said Zambia must wake up and demand accountability in the use of public resources.

CSPR executive director Patrick Nshindano, who read the statement on behalf of the CSOs, observed that Zambians had remained docile, while government leaders were abusing public resources.

“The problem of rampant abuse of public resources has been worsened by the attitude of not demanding for explanations and justifications on the use of public resources exhibited by most Zambians. This has allowed many leaders to take advantage and abuse public resources,” he observed.

“Government has defended the purchase claiming the trucks are custom made and deserves the $1 million per truck tag… Further to this, the construction of the 321km Lusaka-Ndola duo carriageway at the cost of $1.2 billion has also been disputed by a cross section of society as being too costly, it is suggested that on average, a high standard bituminous road in Zambia costs up to $1 million per kilometre which translates in $642 million. At the announced cost of $1.2 million, the Lusaka Ndola duo carriageway will cost on average $2 million per kilometre, double the normal cost.”

Nshindano said it was it was not far fetched to suggest that corruption was involved in the awarding of the two contracts.

“As civil society, we believe there are two aspects to this public spending, the first aspect is whether corruption was involved or not, which of course government has dismissed as unfounded including that ACC. The second issue is whether this was the optimum way of spending public resources at a time when the country is just recovering from a very weak economic performance. We are quite convinced that public resources on the two projects have not been prudently and optimally utilised. Was the fire trucks the most priority for Zambia to allow such a huge expenditure to quench fires whose sources we do not even know yet? US$42 million (approximately K420 million) is more than twice the allocation to Markets and Bus Station (K18 million) in the 2018 budget for the whole year,” he said.

Nshindano observed that the PF government had continued on a destructive path.

“As civil society we are further concerned by the fact that we never seem to learn as a country and successive governments continue on this destructive path. A similar expenditure was made on hearses and mobile hospitals against public protests. Some of these vehicles have already broken down irrevocably and yet a lot of money was spent that could possibly have been spent in a more prudent and sustainable way. Speed boats that were bought for Chavuma Districts to be used as mobile hospitals to serve communities along the Zambezi River have all broken down parked at the banks of the Zambezi River and no one even talks about them,” he said.

The CSOs challenged government to publish the tender documents.

“We demand the publication of the tender documents for all public projects especially the ones under public outcry which include the fire tenders and the construction of the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriage way as prescribed by law under the Public Procurement Act, to promote transparency and accountability. If the procurement was done in public interest its within the rights of citizens to see how the institutions involved arrived at the decision and their considerations,” said Nshindano.

We further urge government through the ministry of finance to quicken the process of reforms meant to enhance public financial management such as the enactment of the planning and budgeting bill, the revision of the public finance act, the loans and guarantees bill, and the public procurement bill… Lastly, we demand that members of parliament to take more interest in public affairs as representatives of the citizens and provide the necessary oversight as per their mandate and avoid politicking at the expense of the Zambian people.

During the question and answer session, ZCSD executive director Lewis Mwape called on Zambians to show their anger over the mismanagement of public resources.

“The role to demand for accountability must not just be the role of civil society, I think it should be the role of all Zambian people. As civil society organisations, we are appealing to the Zambian people is not to sleep whilst the rats and the monkeys are busy feasting on our produce in the fields. So the Zambian people have a duty. It is also the duty of a citizen to hold the elected leaders accountable,” said Mwape.

“We want to see the Zambian people beginning to become angry because when the money that you have contributed has been abused, you need to be angry as a people. We must all be angry when we see the people that we have put in place as stewards begin to act otherwise, for lack of a better term, maybe this is the word that I can find, to become thieves, robbers, daylight robbers of our resources, it will be very unZambian for people to keep quiet. Let us all demand for accountability and demand for priorities for expenditure.”