If Chimese was corrupt, he wasn’t acting alone – TIZ

Transparency International Zambia says if dismissed ZAF commander Lt Gen Eric Chimese was corrupt, then the investigation should be spread to others whom he acted with like the procurement officers.

And TIZ chapter president Rueben Lifuka has demanded that law enforcement agencies must carryout lifestyle audits for the top command in all security and defense wings.

Meanwhile, Lifuka has noted that corruption thrives due to secrecy in funding to the defense sector.

In a statement to News Diggers! Thursday, Lifuka observed that Lt Gen Chimese could not be the only suspect in whatever corruption may have taken place at ZAF.

“In the last couple of days, we have been treated to all manner of speculations and denials on the status of the Zambia Airforce Commander – Lt Gen Eric Chimese and it has finally come to pass that he has been relieved of his duties. The events surrounding his departure and the manner it was communicated through the Minister of Defence, raises more questions than answers. While we do appreciate that the Republican President and Commander in Chief, has the force of law behind him in making this decision, the ongoing allegations of corruption and other related malfeasances within the rank and file of the security and defence wings, is a matter of grave concern and a threat to our democracy- a corrupt defence force is a liability to democracy, peace and security,” Lifuka stated.

“The Anti Corruption Commission should move in urgently to investigate all allegations of corruption against all suspects and not just Lt Gen Eric Chimese as they have intimated. If Gen Chimese was indeed corrupt, he was not working alone, where were the Procurement Officers, Accountants, Internal Auditors and other key staff? We demand that the investigation should be far reaching and include all relevant staff. There should be no sacred cows and if there are any cartels- these should be brought down.”

He demanded that the Kingsland project on Twinpalm road be among the high profile projects, rolled out by ZAF, to be investigated.

“ZAF in recent years has embarked on several high profile projects including the Kingsland project on Twinpalm road- we would like this and all other projects to be investigated. This should extend to all other major public works that the security and defense wings are engaged in- we want to know that normal tender processes were followed and there no wrong doing involved. We are aware that similar allegations of corruption have been raised in other Defence wings- ACC should institute a special investigation for all security and defence wings (including the Zambia Police) and we urge Government to provide the necessary financial and technical support to facilitate this process. One weakness of the fight against corruption in Zambia is that the institutions that have the mandate to investigate and prosecute corruption, are themselves the sanctuary of the corrupt. We need to flush out all corrupt elements in the Police, ZNS, Army, Airforce, State Security Agencies, DEC, including ACC itself. Surely, no matter how much you feed a lizard, it can never become a crocodile. Therefore, we can be in denial for a long time about the existence of corruption in the law enforcement agencies but this will not solve the problem. Only action will cleanse the law enforcement agencies as well as defence forces of such malcontents,” he stated.

“Similarly, we want to call on the Office of the Auditor General, to undertake a special audit of defence spending in this country for the last couple of years and all procurement and related expenditure should be fully examined.”

And Lifuka demanded that lifestyle audits be conducted on the top command for all security and defense wings.

“Additionally, the Office of the Auditor General and ACC should conduct lifestyle audits of the top command in all security and defense wings. The top command should set good examples if we are to win the fight against corruption. This lifestyle audit should be part of any due diligence done for any person that may subsequently be appointed as Airforce Commander. In fact, we would like to see the two persons acting in the positions of Airforce Commander and Deputy Commander – to be scrutinised in order to restore confidence. We do not want to see in that office, another person who will be shrouded in allegations of corruption,” Lifuka demanded.

“We want to urge Government to urgently institute legal and policy measures to ensure that annual declaration of assets and liabilities for all senior public officers including senior security and defence officers are put in place. One of the reasons why corruption in the public sector continues unabated is the absence of timely action on the part of Government. For instance, the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) No. 2 of 2016 in Article 263 is clear – “A person holding a public office shall, before assuming office or leaving office, make a declaration of their assets and liabilities, as prescribed.” However, this constitutional requirement remains unenforced because the subsequent law to bring it into operations has not been enacted. It makes a mockery of efforts to fight corruption when such key provisions remain just on paper without any application. We urge Government to present the necessary bill to the next sitting of the National Assembly.”

Meanwhile, Lifuka noted that corruption thrived due to secrecy in funding to the defense sector.

“Unfortunately, allegations of corruption in the Security and Defence wings are not new and we have previously seen senior defence officers including former Airforce and Army Commanders brought before the courts of law on corruption charges. We have had some of these persons convicted and sentenced to jail. Despite this, the rot continues – and it is the head of the fish that is rotting. The prosecution and conviction of former senior defence officers has not acted as deterrent in any way and if anything, it would seem the corruption is getting worse and more sophisticated than before. Government has no option but to sit up and take drastic actions to address the possible systemic corruption in this area. We do recall that President Edgar Lungu in November 2015, when he officiated at the 18th graduation ceremony for command and staff course at Arakan Barracks, implored officers in the defence and security wings to desist from corruption. This acknowledgement of corruption in this sector while important, is woefully insufficient to tackle the menace of corruption which has gripped the security and defence wings,” Lifuka stated.

“It is our contention that in a country such as ours where the defence budget and related spending continues to unjustifiably rise, we have done little to improve defence governance. We continue to pour public funds in a sector where the standards of governance are weak, where checks and balances are equally weak and vast proportions of public funding are spent in opaque ways. We hasten to state that we do appreciate the notion of protection of national security, we however, challenge the blanket secrecy that is deployed sweepingly to defence spending and advertently serves as a good cover for all sorts of unscrupulous activities, usually by a few elites in the security and defense sector. Appropriation of defence institutions by narrow interest groups is an issue of concern to Transparency International Zambia and we accordingly warn of the potential of these groups working in collusion with others including politicians, to run vast and secretive business empires- all out of the purview of any public scrutiny.”

He noted that not all spending in the defense sector justified being clothed in secrecy.

“It is time that we enhanced transparency and accountability in the defence sector. Not all military expenditure justifies to be clothed with the mark of secrecy- there is clearly a lot of wrong doing that is being done under the cover of military spending. Today, we witness the lavish lifestyles of the top command and senior officers in the security and defence wings, which in most cases is not commensurate with their known earnings. These people are now running business ventures and own vast real estate properties- and have assumed new forms of unexplained wealth. Others are connected to suppliers of goods and services to their establishments and generally, the culture of deal making has been instituted. There are just too many people looking to skim some profits and benefits from public funding given to this sector,” stated Lifuka.

         

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