Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) says the PF government spent 2017 doling out contracts to companies and cadres who helped the party during the 2016 general election campaigns.

And TIZ president Rueben Lifuka says there is enough evidence to show that corruption in Zambia has taken new unimaginable forms and is mutating through the fabric of society.

Reviewing Zambia’s performance in the fight against corruption this year, Lifuka observed that PF cadres got contracts as a reward for their support during the 2016 elections.

“2017 was a year when corruption associated with public procurement, strongly manifested. It is important to mention that corruption in public procurement is not necessarily limited to public officials receiving kickbacks or facilitation payments in form of bribes, it also includes acts of collusion which results in bid rigging, trading in influence- where those close to the powers that be- use this relationship to acquire public contracts. Other forms of corruption that were prevalent in 2017 include the perennial challenge of political patronage- this takes the form of the political leadership using their positions of power to dole out contracts to their membership or cadres as a form of payment for their support especially in the 2016 election,” Lifuka stated.

He also stated that government had purchased goods and services at unreasonably high prices.

“We have also seen state capture at play where private interests have captured public policy and initiatives all in furtherance of private interests. It is in 2017 that we had the unexplainable and indefensible purchase of 42 fire tenders at USD42 million. It was in this year that we had the Zambia-Malawi Maizegate saga and it is in this year that government awarded the Lusaka – Ndola dual carriageway at an astronomical price and the justification that government tried to give did little to build confidence that they take corruption seriously. It is in this year under review, that we witnessed a new phenomenon by government ministries and government agencies to circumvent public procurement procedures by unnecessarily using high specifications for the procurement of public goods and services,” Lifuka stated.

“We equally saw a continuation of the sad tradition of using the fight against corruption to pursue political enemies. 2017 will be remembered for the numerous government statements, some of them straight from State House, defending or justifying questionable actions and decisions taken such as the Fire tender saga. The Auditor General’s report retains the familiar themes of misappropriation of public funds, abuse of authority, mismanagement and misapplication of funds and as usual, government’s response to this important report remains inconsequential with no meaningful actions taken.”

He lamented that even opposition leaders who had been speaking against corruption had only done so for selfish political interests.

“The Auditor General’s reports and now the Trends Analysis reports of the Financial Intelligence Centre, remain as ritualistic events which attract little or no action at all. And yet, our leaders continue to ask for evidence- even in the midst of an avalanche of cogent evidence of wrong doings in a number of cases. The unfortunate state of affairs is that even those in the opposition political parties, have remained largely anonymous when it comes to taking a strong stand against corruption. The few that have been vociferous on this issue, have unfortunately done so from selfish political interests and not because they truly believe in fighting corruption,” Lifuka stated.

And Lifuka stated that there was enough evidence to show that corruption in Zambia had taken new unimaginable forms and was mutating through the fabric of society.

“The simple verdict is that in 2017, we have not done anything significant and holistic, as a nation to address the perennial problem of corruption. 2017, like years before- was a lost year in terms of fighting corruption. Admittedly, there were a few positives like the taking to Parliament the Public Finance Management Bill which seeks to improve accountability of public finances, strengthen internal controls, as well as the Companies Act- which addresses the problem of beneficial ownership. That said, there is enough evidence to demonstrate that corruption is taking on firm hold in our society and mutating – taking on new forms and with unimaginable impacts on the Zambian society. One of the key drivers for this state of corruption, is the absence of strong leadership. Countries in Africa, like Botswana, Rwanda or Cape Verde which continue to do well on the TI Corruption Perception Index and other governance indices, have strong and visionary political leadership. These leaders have appreciated the serious consequences of corruption on their social and economic plans and they have put in place strategic processes to rid the nations of corruption,” Lifuka stated.

“Our fight against corruption is predicated on finding corrupt individuals who will end up being prosecuted in the courts of law. Little efforts have been made to seal the loopholes for corruption and prevent corruption from occurring in the first place. We are not doing enough to develop a strong ethical base for all public servants and for most of them, they do not see the value of being ethical and they continue with their unscrupulous activities using embedded networks of corruption in the public service. President Lungu and his top leadership are not taking bold decisions to ensure that each government ministry, parastatal and spending agency drafts strategies to prevent corruption and urgently brings to book all culprits. We are not doing enough to protect the victims of corruption- most of them poor and unable to retain the services of lawyers.”

Lifuka stated that poor enforcement of laws was also perpertuating corruption.

“The lack of leadership is further compounded by poor enforcement of existing laws- we are yet to see the full operationalisation of the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblower’s ) Act, which could help immensely in highlighting wrong doings in the public service. Government continues to back pedal and circle the important Access to Information Bill- with very little hope that this Bill will ever see the light of the National Assembly. We continue to have weak laws on our statute books and this is despite Zambia signing up to a number International and Regional Conventions and Protocols against corruption. Surprisingly, the Republican Constitution as amended in 2016 has not been implemented in full. There is no clear explanation why to this day, Government has not appointed a State Audit Commission, which in turn will be involved in the appointment of a substantive Auditor General. There is no reason why we continue to work with an Acting Auditor General,” he stated.

Lifuka hoped that in 2018, President Lungu would make decisive decisions in the fight against corruption.

“It is our fervent hope that 2018 will bring about a new sharp focus on fighting corruption. We need to move away from merely talking about fighting corruption, to taking concrete actions against the scourge. In 2018, President Lungu should be bold and decisive in taking decisions against all persons suspected to be involved in corruption. The President has on more than one occasion – expressed concern about corruption in his Cabinet and it was everyone’s expectation that the he would take serious action against his Cabinet colleagues but beyond the sacking of Hon Chishimba Kambwili – nothing much has happened. President Lungu cannot afford to be ambivalent about fighting corruption because doing so is self defeating- as government cannot in one breath invest heavily in the fight against corruption and yet on the other hand open the stable doors wide open. Fighting corruption comes as a sacrifice and even loss of friends and colleagues- President Lungu should by now have realised that the fight against corruption is not for the faint hearted and it may require that he parts company with those who are suspected to be corrupt, no matter how close these are to him,” stated Lifuka.

“We would like underscore the point that the erosion of public confidence in the fight against corruption should be prevented and this will require that government and all concerned entities remain above board, taking decisive actions – unpopular as these might be. Fighting corruption can be a lonely crusade as the late President Mwanawasa found out but its long term results in creating an upright and developed society, is worth every effort.”