Transparency International Zambia Executive Director Wesley Chibamba has charged that President Edgar Lungu has a ‘double standard stance’ towards the fight against corruption because what he says contradicts his actions.
Commenting on the Anti-Corruption Commission’s probe on Housing and Infrastructure Minister Ronald Chitotela’s corruption allegations, Chibamba said President Lungu should have relieved the minister of his duties to pave way for smooth investigations.
“We welcome the probe that the Anti-Corruption Commission has instituted against Honorable Ronald Chitotela. It is a real welcome move and that is what we have been urging the ACC to do instead of concentrating on smaller issues. They need to really look at the people who are in decision making positions. People in Positions of Authority. Because they are the ones that are bound to abuse that authority, so for us this is a very welcome move. We really support the probing of Minister Ronald Chitotela,” he said.
“However, we bemoan the lack of action on the part of President Edgar Lungu in terms of relieving Honorable Chitotela of his duties to put him aside to pave way for thorough investigations. He should have done that by now. It is not easy for law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate a sitting high ranking official especially cabinet ministers for the reason that, these people are still in positions of authority and they still have access to a lot of documents which could be pivotal to the outcome of the case.”
He expressed concern that the minister could interfere with the evidence in his case.
“Naturally someone would be tempted to interfere with the investigations if they have access to certain documents that may incriminate them. So, we really think that the double standards being exhibited by President Edgar Lungu in his proclamations on the anti-corruption fight are really eroding the confidence that the Zambian people have in himself and his office. In one breath he will talk strongly about corruption and how he upholds corruption and how he wants to get rid of it and here he is; he is not willing to take action against ministers that are alleged to be corrupt,” Chibamba observed.
“Off course we all know that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but why we are insisting that these people who are being probed be relieved of their duties is for the sole reason that they can interfere with the investigations. The law enforcement agencies cannot thoroughly investigate a case conclusively when the person they are investigating still has access to all the documents that they want, still have access to other relevant evidence, they are still the supervisors and superiors of the people who could be material witnesses. People will be reluctant to come forth and give evidence. So, for that one we really hope that President Edgar Lungu is going to take a step and relieve Honorable Chitotela of his duties to pave way for investigations. He could still be re-appointed if he is cleared. But we really welcome the move by the Anti-Corruption Commission for opening investigations into this case. It being a long time coming.”
Chibamba further said the reluctance by other law enforcement agencies to probe individuals who were cited in the Auditor General’s report was discouraging.
“And we have communicated our disappointment not just to the Anti-Corruption Commission, but to other law enforcement agencies as well in terms of the inertia that is there to bring the culprits to book that have been cited in the Auditor Generals Report. Of course, we are aware that certain things only require administrative actions but where there is a clear case of abuse, I think law enforcement agencies have got the mandate to move in swiftly and bring the culprits to book. More than that, we have always emphasized on the recovery of these resources. It’s not enough to punish the culprits, resources must be recovered and given back to the Zambian people. We have communicated our disappointment to the ACC as well as other law enforcement agencies,” said Chibamba.
“Again, the back stops at President Edgar Lungu. What we want him to do right now is to demand for a report on what has happened to the people that have been cited in these institutions. The people that are presiding over these institution task to discipline those particular officers should do their job. If they are not doing that, President Lungu has got the responsibility to sack them and replace them with others that are going to do their jobs.”