Former vice-president Nevers Mumba says there is need for government to institute an audit into the wealth and personal assets of cabinet ministers in order for the ruling party to allay corruption allegations that have engulfed it.
And Mumba, who is also MMD president, says the failure by former Finance Minister Felix Mutati to tell officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the truth about the country’s actual debt crisis has cost Zambia a bailout package.
Speaking to News Diggers in an interview yesterday, Mumba said government must audit lifestyles of all ministers and government workers on their possessions in comparison with the salaries they get and that any exaggeration of wealth must be investigated furiously.
Mumba argued that President Lungu’s decision to reshuffle the cabinet and transfer ministers was not the solution to the country’s economic crisis.
“The solution for the country’s economic crisis is not the reshuffle [of cabinet ministers], the reshuffle as you are well aware is a prerogative of the President, he decides what he does with his cabinet. But we are offering an advice that the permanent solution is to ensure that this escalating debt which is consuming our opportunities of growth is taken care of. Some of the things identified are that corruption is punching holes in the stability of the economy. So, I think we should initiate what is happening in South Africa where [President Cyril Ramaphosa has instituted audit processes in all government ministries to ensure that the system is cleared of all corrupt activities,” Mumba said.
“Let there be an audit of lifestyles of all ministers and government workers to ensure that what they own and have accumulated while working in government, can be supported by the salaries that they get from government. Any exaggeration of wealth must be investigated furiously. This will make the people serving in government start taking responsibility to understand that they are there to serve the Zambian people and not to enrich themselves. So I think that is one of the solutions to the problems that we are having in terms of the economy.”
Meanwhile, Mumba said former Finance Minister Felix Mutati’s lies on Zambia’s actual debt stock had cost the country a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund.
“We did write a letter when we realised that the statement that Mr Mutati made in Parliament was erroneous because our own investigations using the numbers from Ministry of Finance itself revealed that the external debt stood at $16.6 billion, then we also added the domestic debt which brought it to $23.4 billion. Thereafter we wrote to Mr Mutati to help us dispute or agree with our figures and he did not honour us with a response. We wrote again the second time demanding that ‘it is our right as citizens to ask those who are in ministerial positions in government to be accountable to the people of the country’, again he did not honour us with a response. We went to the Bank of Zambia Governor and asked him to help us with the actual debt of the country and he’s response was that ‘that is the prerogative of the Minister of Finance’. I think the fact that Mr Mutati was hiding the debt level could have created this crisis with the IMF because if it (the country’s debt stock) was $7.2 billion, then IMF should have given us the $1.3 billion because [then] we would still be within our threshold,” he said.
“So the issue we raised was that Mr Mutati was lying to the Zambian people. He was also lying to the international community, and the international community has reacted to the fact that ‘why were you lying to us? We are not going to give the IMF package’.”
The former High Commissioner to Canada said his party would continue persisting and pressing the new Minister of Finance until the correct figure of the country’s actual debt stock was revealed.
“However, we are still going to continue writing to the Ministry of Finance even under the administration of the new minister (Margaret Mwanaktwe) until we get the correct figures about the country’s actual debt stock because the people of Zambia deserve to know. It doesn’t matter if Mutati is out of that ministry because records remain and the new minister must be able to respond to our questions,” said Mutati.