President Edgar Lungu says he is aware that people call him a thief and he has since ordered the Police, Drug Enforcement Commission and Anti Corruption Commission to investigate his government and arrest anyone involved, saying as Head of State, he did not even know how to involve himself in corruption.

And President Lungu has warned ministers and public officers involved in the mismanagement of public resources that they will not find refuge in him as Head of State, regardless of who they are.

Meanwhile, the President has regretted the lack of action from law enforcement agencies on reports published by the Auditor General.

Speaking when he opened the seminar for ministers and controlling officers on financial management at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka yesterday, the President said he was aware that people were accusing him of protecting criminals.

“I have heard people calling me a thief, they are saying, ‘no the President is protecting criminals; he is corrupt. If it was a culture that President were involved in corruption before, I am here to tell you that this President is not involved, I don’t know how to be involved and therefore, law enforcement agencies, you are at liberty to pick up someone and question them. a lot of people have been complaining that the President is a thief,” President Lungu said.

“I have never, not even once, called the Inspector General of Police or the Director General at ACC to tell them what to do. so law enforcement agencies, please feel free to follow up. Follow up on these things.”

And President Lungu said his expectation was that there would be no glaring financial irregularities from government officers in the 2018 Auditor General’s report.

“I regret to note that a number of cases raised by the Auditor General and other agencies are not acted upon. I am therefore directing the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Police, the Drug Enforcement Commission and other security wings to investigate and prosecute expeditiously public officers involved in financial misconduct by acting on the reports of the Auditor General. I wish also to appeal to the courts of law to expedite the cases relating to financial misconduct once these cases are brought before them and it is my expectation that the audit report for 2018 will not have glaring financial irregularities that represent clear cases of misappropriation, mismanagement or corruption. Any minister or controlling officers or any other public servant implicated in any financial irregularities will face the full wrath of the law,” President Lungu said.

“I am aware of complaints from stakeholders regarding the weak regulatory and legal framework on financial management. My government has taken note of these complaints and has embarked on implementing public financial management reforms in planning and budgeting, revenue administration, accounting and reporting internal audit, control and public procurement to enshrine in law the prudent use of public resources. In this regard, my government has submitted the public financial management bill (2017) to parliament to stiffen regulatory and sanction regime that will see fines and jail sentences of up to five years for offenders. I am hopeful that once this bill is enacted into law, it will compel accountability and transparency in the public sector.”

And the President asked his ministers to take their appointments as rare privileges and ensure that they deliver to the nation accord to the expectation of the people of Zambia.

“I have a duty and responsibility which was conferred upon me by the people of Zambia to protect the nation’s resources. With this heavy responsibility, I have appointed you (pointing at ministers) to assist me deliver on this mandate. Therefore, I call upon all of you to take your appointments as a rare privilege and deliver to the nation in accordance with the mandate I was given by the people. The theme for this seminar is ‘promoting ethical conduct, integrity and accountability in the public sector for enhanced service delivery’. This theme has come at a right time because is meant to provide a blueprint to guide public financial management. In the entire public sector.

“Therefore, my promise to those that will decide to depart from this blueprint is that they will not find refuge in as Head of State, regardless of who they are. Equally, for those that are charged with enforcing the law to punish such acts, but choose not to do their work. I will ensure all administrative and legal provisions available are applied to bring you to account for your actions or nation. My government will always respect your independence but certainly not to protect your inactivity or any wrong doing.”

And President Lungu also took time to clarify the difference between the roles of ministers and controlling officers.

He complained that controlling officers had of late been failing to mange their staff and resources allocated to their various ministries.

“I have noted with concern the lack of clarity on the role of ministers and permanent Secretaries as controlling officers. My expectation is that ministers will provide policy direction in ministries and ensure that such policy objectives are attained. On the other hand, controlling officers are expected to implement programmes through prudent use of public resources for enhanced service delivery and social economic development. This said, I have been going through the Auditor General’s reports. It’s apparent that in most cases there has been failure by some controlling officers to manage their staff and public resources. I therefore direct the Public Service Commission to ensure that erring officers are dealt with in accordance with the public service regulation and not to allow disciplinary cases to be resolved through transfers and controlling officers shielding officers should be reported immediately to the Secretary to the Treasury for action,” he said.

Meanwhile, the President expressed confidence that the decision by government to amend the Zambia public procurement act would shorten the lengthy procedures involved in procurement processes.

“To address the pricing of services procured by government; we are revising the Zambia public procurement act by amending law to enhance efficiency. We are going to shorten the lengthy tendering procedures and introduce measures to reduce wastage such as benchmarking of prices and works. This was one of the biggest irregularities pointed out by the Auditor General. I therefore direct that work on this bill to be expedited so that the next sitting of Parliament, this month, can enact it into law. To strengthen commitment controls, a lot of work to migrate all ministries onto Financial Management Information System (IFMS) and treasury single account is going on. In this regard, I direct the minster of Finance to migrate all remaining ministries and agencies onto these systems this year,” said President Lungu.