TIZ has cautioned President Edgar Lungu to ensure resources allocated to fighting cholera are prudently utilised saying corruption is usually rife in crisis situations.

In a statement to News Diggers! Transparency International Zambia president Rueben Lifuka warned government officials not to treat the crisis as a time to eat.

“We want to caution Government that it is during such emergency responses that a lot of corruption and unethical conduct takes place. Emergencies provide a fertile ground for fraud, bribery and corruption to occur especially in the procurement of goods and services because usually public procurement procedures are done away with and the focus is on quickly getting relevant materials to contain the epidemic. It is during such emergencies that goods and services are overpriced, sub standard equipment procured and delivered, fake invoices presented, payroll theft through the payment of non-emergency staff, conflict of interest rules ignored and people involved in the emergency response freely give out contracts to family, close associates and party cadres, kickbacks and bribes received in exchange for promises of contracts, unrelated or unjustified goods imported and cleared as emergency response items thus avoiding to pay custom duties and other taxes. It is during such moments that fuel, government resources and facilities including vehicles are abused for personal gain,” Lifuka stated.

He revealed that the institution had already started receiving complaints from whistle-blowers to the effect that prices were being inflated; among other issues.

“We have already started receiving complaints of inflated prices for hire of trucks and supply of goods and services to the cholera outbreak response – particularly in the City of Lusaka. We want to put this strongly that it is unacceptable and immoral for people to seek to make profits from this crisis that has befallen many of our people in this country. Transparency International has long held that the most damaging impact of corruption is the diversion of basic resources from poor people. Everyone engaged in this process, should have their minds focused on saving lives, on helping to bring this crisis under control. Government should put in place corruption safeguards and we call upon President Lungu to personally ensure that the response to this Cholera outbreak, is CORRUPTION FREE. We do not want to see this outbreak to serve as a channel for illicit enrichment, fraud and corruption- this should not be seen as a ‘Time to Eat or SANGWAPO’,” he stated.

“This is people’s lives we are dealing with. President Lungu should make a firm commitment that anyone found wanting and engaged in such illicit acts, will be dealt with to the full extent of the law. We want to see clear accountability measures put in place and with an emphasis on good stewardship of all resources. There should be transparency in the procurement of goods and services. This cholera outbreak demands leadership at all levels, from the people in the field, those making decisions and the beneficiaries of the support- again we say to you- let this exercise be about service to humanity and not service to self. We ask all relevant stakeholders, to take keen interest in this exercise and ensure that all efforts and resources go to the areas of need.”

He recalled that close to US$6 million had been lost to corruption and fraud during the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

We would like to sound a timely warning that this Cholera outbreak should not be used as a vehicle for illicit enrichment and patronage. As Transparency International, we have monitored situations of response to humanitarian crisis or emergencies around the world, and we note with sadness that corruption and fraud, have been prominent features in some countries. We do recall that in the aftermath of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea in 2014, there were allegations of corruption and fraud in the management of emergency funds provided by the international community and donations made by ordinary citizens. The Red Cross reported that close to US$6 million had been lost to corruption and fraud during the Ebola crisis in West Africa. This corruption and fraud is not limited to Africa, in 2005, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which struck and ravaged New Orleans, the Mayor of New Orleans – Ray Nagin was convicted by a federal jury for accepting bribes from business entities that wanted to rebuild the city,” Lifuka stated.

And Lifuka asked Zambians to cooperate with government officials in order to contain the outbreak.

“Transparency International Zambia, joins the rest of the country in mourning our fellow compatriots who have died due to the Cholera epidemic which has affected Lusaka and many other parts of the country. It is unfortunate that this outbreak has claimed a number of victims including the thousands who have been taken ill and undergoing treatment. Households and communities in many parts of the City of Lusaka are experiencing disruption to normal life and it will take a while to recover. This outbreak is an outcome of the negligence, incompetency, lack of planning and absence of leadership that we have witnessed over several years – perhaps going back to the UNIP days and today, we are paying the price for that. It important that Government has responded to try and control the spread of this epidemic and we call upon all Zambians and stakeholders to cooperate and lend a hand where possible in tackling this outbreak,” stated Lifuka.