Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) says when those in authority live in denial that corruption has become rampant, attention is diverted from dealing with the problem.

And TIZ has noted that silence from government on issues of public concern only fuels speculation.

In a TIZ members’ statement on the state of corruption in Zambia at an Annual General Meeting (AGM), TIZ observed that the first step to fighting corruption was admitting its presence.

“We would like to register our dismay over the limited progress made in implementing the anti-corruption pronouncements. Only real, concrete and consistent actions will bring about change in the status quo. Reports from the Auditor General, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) and Investigator General from the Global Fund have revealed that colossal sums of public funds have either been stolen or misappropriated and nothing much has been done about this. A good number of controlling officers and other government officials have been cited for financial impropriety in all these reports and yet these continue to serve in office with no action taken against them. The year 2018 has witnessed a frenzy of scandals all pointing at a systematic and sustained mismanagement of national resources, corruption and abuse of public office,” TIZ stated.

“It must be emphasised that our society needs good leaders, a sound civil service and public officers in general who uphold the values of integrity, accountability and transparency. Most importantly, our country needs leaders who can virtuously lead by example. It is only a fact that when leaders fall short of integrity, accountability and transparency, their actions or lack thereof, will come into conflict with the law. In such a case, due process demands the imposition of the stipulated punishment.”

TIZ recounted some of the scandals that have still remained unsolved this year.

“Government has still not given conclusive statements on the recent controversy and public outcry about the procurement of 42 fire trucks and the award of a contract for the construction of the Lusaka- Ndola dual carriageway. It seems to us that this dirt has been swept under the carpet because of the notion that Zambians are generally a peaceful and forgiving people who easily forget such narrations of mismanagement. Whatever has happened in these two cases demonstrates the need for government to seriously consider reviewing the public procurement procedures. Clearly, the complaints coming from the citizens in relation to these two issues are founded and these will not disappear into thin air until government offers a credible explanation. We had expected that necessary action would be taken to investigate issues canvassed by the FIC in its Trends analysis report for 2017. But it is shocking to note that what took centre-stage was the condemnation and name-calling of the head of the institution, Ms. Mary Tshuma,” TIZ added.

“It remains unfortunate that instead of commending the work done by the FIC in identifying these financial irregularities, which could lead to predicate offences, the nation was consumed by unnecessary debate on the institutional mandate of the FIC to release its report. It is, therefore, our considered view that all matters raised by the FIC should comprehensively be investigated by the necessary law enforcement agencies and there should be no sacred cows in this process. It is our expectation that government will address in public interest the gift of land reportedly awarded to President Lungu by the Kingdom of eSwatini. We are mindful that this matter is currently pending before the courts of law. Suffice to mention, our leadership needs to be in the forefront of strengthening legislation that will clearly stipulate how the receipt of assets or gifts by public officers will be treated.”

TIZ called on all well-meaning Zambians to ‘join hands’ in the fight against corruption.

“As Transparency International Zambia, it is our vision that we can achieve a Zambia where individuals and institutions are anchored on integrity. This vision can only be achieved if we truly recognize the magnitude of the problem of corruption in different sectors and we collectively and collaboratively work towards finding solutions. There are instances where our leaders and those in authority, generally, live in denial that corruption has become rampant. This denial serves no purpose and simply diverts attention from dealing with the problem at hand. We stand ready to work with all those that are committed to making Zambia corruption-free,” read the statement.