Top leadership responsible for corruption – Kalaba

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba says the country’s top leadership is responsible for corruption and fraud.

And Kalaba has attributed the ballooning of Zambia’s to corruption, abuse of office and overpayment of shoddy contracts.

Kalaba, who resined from government citing rampant corruption, was commenting on the freezing of donor funding on suspicions of misuse in a statement, Wednesday.

He observed that President Edgar Lungu was a defender of corruption whose fight against the vice was restricted to speeches which were written for him.

“The country’s top leadership must be held accountable for the syndicated grand corruption and fraud as these vices are mostly of their creation. It is no coincidence that the only time our President appears to fight corruption is when he is reading a speech prepared for him. He continues to be faint hearted about corruption and continues to tolerate and embrace those with the unmistakable scent of corruption,” Kalaba stated.

He observed that whilst Zambia had proper systems to fight corruption, it lacked a leadership which could make use of such systems.

“I urge His Excellency the President of Zambia to have a heart for Zambians for a change and to control and stop the corruption by respecting the constitution, policies and institutional frameworks that prevent, expose and fight corruption. This county is not short of policies and regulations to fight corruption as intimated in the President’s speech to parliament the other day. This Country is only short of elected leadership that has a political will to fight corruption. The tools are there but who to use them?” Kalaba asked.

“With our current debt burden at almost US$16 billion, bilateral aid may be the only available resource to lubricate the social services engine. Zambia will be required to maintain a debt service of at least US$2.26 billion annually for the next twenty years to be anywhere near liquidating the country’s current indebtedness. This represents close to 32.4% of the total annual national budget. We know that the country has already exceeded the US$585 million in annual debt service and this figure will rise with the Chinese loans that had 4-5-year moratorium (grace periods). The country’s foreign exchange earnings, 70% of which are still generated by the mines, who earn north of US$5 billion, only contribute 6% (US$300 million) to the country’s treasury in taxes and royalties. The true burden of debt servicing is being carried by the ordinary Zambian with income that is not generated from the country’s mineral wealth but from their sweat. Please Mr. President, let’s not add to these miseries by toying with aid funds through weak institutional frameworks and arrogant, carefree, public servants. The litmus test to measure government’s commitment to tackling our debt crisis and strengthening oversight institutions will reflect in the upcoming budget for 2019 to see to what extent the budget will bear reductions in unnecessary expenditure and funding of the Auditor General’s office.”

Kalaba noted that the freezing of aid would affect the lives of vulnerable groups, at the expense of selfish leaders.

“My heart goes to the women and children of Zambia who are at the receiving end of this sad development which has put a dent on Zambia as a country and on us collectively as a people, at a time when our people are struggling to have decent livelihoods because of insatiable greed and our leader’s cold indifference concerning their plight. The vulnerable women and children who were the target beneficiaries now have had their lifeline curtailed due to gross mismanagement of the country’s wealth by those entrusted as custodians of their National wealth and resources. The freezing of the aid will further compromise the ability of the vulnerable and incapacitated households to have a decent meal a day and hence drive them into worsening abject poverty. Women and children will have difficulties to access quality health services leading to worsening mortality and morbidity of innocent souls. It is also clear that this development hurts our sluggish trajectory to enhanced human development anchored on quality education for all, universal access to health and ending poverty,” he stated.

And Kalaba attributed the ballooning of Zambia’s to corruption, abuse of office and overpayment of shoddy contracts.

“The United Kingdom has been Zambia’s all-weather friend since Independence and has provided budget support for many years. Now we understand that they have frozen aid funding to Zambia, after our government admitted that $4.3million (£3.3million) meant for Education, Health and nutrition, as well as the Social Cash transfer which benefit a lot of poor families had gone missing on account of corruption and poor attitude to public accountability in the current administration. The whole world is asking how the country’s debt has escalated from US$1.2billion in 2008 after the HIPC debt forgiveness to almost US$16 billion in 10 years which is obvious to the naked eye. I have always asserted that the under-current to this debt accumulation has been the evident lack of accountability, abuse of office bordering on corruption and over-payment of shoddy contracts, but more detrimental has been the obvious lack of national interest by government officials to safeguard national resources in pursuit of greedy and personal gains and this same arrogant attitude is now being directed towards aid funds which for this carefree team of leaders provides the opportunity of low hanging fruits,” stated Kalaba.

“The UK’s decision has also incited Ireland, Finland and Sweden who have also suspended aid funding to Zambia. Many more donors may follow suit because most of our bilateral donors have adopted a zero tolerance to corruption and yet we continue to burry our heads in the sand, claiming all is well.”

         

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