Today the corrupt live large enjoying the fruits of their criminal activities, at times in full glare of public authorities, Transparency International Zambia has observed.
And TIZ has asked President Edgar Lungu to demonstrate his resolve to fight corruption in 2019 by ordering lifestyle audits of everyone serving in his administration, including himself.
Reviewing 2018 in a statement, Wednesday, TIZ president Rueben Lifuka noted that PF had not delivered on its promise to fight corruption.
“The year 2018 marks 7 years since the Patriotic Front (PF) party swept into power on a supposedly strong anti-corruption platform…Seven years later and the levels of corruption continue to soar unabated, while transparency, accountability and integrity in the country, remains elusive. What is worrisome is that corruption has not only worsened but political impunity has equally become entrenched. The corrupt fear no repercussions not even the long arm of the law. The corrupt feel well secured with the political backing they often receive,” Lifuka stated.
“The weaknesses of law enforcement agencies and the mixed signals sent by the judiciary, facilitates this state of affairs. Our fight against corruption receives more impetus from political rhetoric than from concrete actions against all those suspected of such criminal activities. Today the corrupt do not feel threatened in their activities, they live large enjoying the fruits of their criminal activities, at times in full glare of public authorities. Yes, the authorities want to pat themselves on the back for enacting laws like the Public Finance Management Act and introducing electronic payments- these are very welcome and we do not want to begrudge government some credit for this but this is not enough given the gravity of the problem at hand. The PF government should be reminded that the MMD government between 2008 and 2010, passed a raft of very forward looking anti corruption related laws and yet corruption was still highly prevalent. Clearly, it is not the number of laws that will win the fight, it is how well these laws are enforced.”
He observed that corruption was alive and well under PF.
“The sad reality for the PF Government which it may not want to hear is that corruption today is alive and well- if not healthy and given the pedestrian approach taken, corruption will soon eclipse many development gains. Corruption will start to define our ways of life unless we the people rise up and start demanding for consistent and concrete action to stem the tide,” Lifuka stated.
“It is time that we realised that corruption continues to hamper the development of this country, while we dalliance with all manner of trivialities. Corruption is eating away at the soul of this nation and soon and if not already there, it will pay to be corrupt and not to be law abiding.”
He listed some corruption scandals that had rocked Zambia in 2018.
“2018 was the year that President Lungu together with other Heads of State under the umbrella of the African Union, declared as the African Year Against Corruption. They chose an interesting theme- “Winning the fight against corruption: A sustainable path to Africa’s transformation.” For Zambia – can we honestly state that we are winning the fight against corruption? Unfortunately, the verdict is that there is nothing spectacularly different about 2018 – it was a year resplendent with several reports of financial misconduct, abuse of public office, misapplication of funds and several other suspicious public procurement transactions. 2018 was a continuation of the same malaise witnessed in 2017 where public goods and services were procured at unjustifiably exorbitant prices- clearly all meant to provide sufficient padding for granting of kickbacks to those in charge of such procurement. The Auditor General’s reports continue to demonstrate a worrying trend of misapplication, mismanagement, misuse, abuse of office and outright embezzlement of public resources,” Lifuka stated.
“We started the year with a revelation of the digital migration process and the involvement of Star Times in rather curious circumstances in this single sourced procurement. We later on had to contend with the unceremonious exit of the Zambia Air Force Commander amidst allegations of high levels of corruption as well as exorbitant and unnecessary purchase of the Presidential jet. The nation was also treated to the peculiar bestowal of a gift of land to President Lungu purportedly by the leadership of the Kingdom of Eswatini. Later in the year, the social cash transfer scandal broke and this was after the donors confirmed the occurrence of unusual activities in the handling of this important social protection programme. The scandal at the Ministry of Education followed and thereafter a number of public servants were fired and some are currently investigated. It is curious to note that in the case of the social cash transfer scandal, some of the suspended officials at the Ministry of Community Development, have since reported back for work. And this is happening at a time when the Government has not endeavoured to give a full account to the Zambian taxpayers who equally contribute to this programme, what transpired and what actions have been taken following the forensic audit conducted.”
And Lifuka asked President Lungu to demonstrate his resolve to fight corruption by ordering lifestyle audits of everyone serving in his administration, including himself.
“In 2019, President Lungu should emulate his brother President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and order the Anti Corruption Commission, working with the Zambia Revenue Authority and the Financial Intelligence Centre to conduct life style audits of all public officials starting with himself and his Ministers. Such an unprecedented action will send a strong signal to the investor community and the Zambians that his government means business in the fight against corruption,” he stated.
“We have heard too many stories of illicit enrichment involving some serving Ministers and senior government officers- these stories can be put to bed once a credible life style audit is conducted. In 2019, our central message is that we can longer continue to handle corruption with same lack of seriousness, vigour and insincerity that we continue to witness thus far. We want to assure government that as civil society, we will heighten our advocacy and we will continue to demand for transparency and accountability from all. There will be no corruption scandal big or small that will go without scrutiny – and demands for appropriate action.”
He advised President Lungu to insulate the presidency from corrupt elements.
“The major weakness of our fight against corruption lies in the absence of strong and consistent leadership at all levels. It is not only President Lungu who should provide leadership but Controlling Officers, Chief Executives of State Owned Enterprises, Government agencies and of course the private sector. That said, President Lungu as the elected leader of this country, has a bigger role to play than anyone else. President Lungu should not limit his role to merely talking about corruption but demonstrating personal resolve and political will to fight this scourge. President Lungu should lead by example and ensure that the Presidency is insulated from all corrupt activities and corrupt elements- the Presidency should be the epitome of public integrity and the nationals should look to this institution for inspiration. Therefore, all persons working with and for the President, should be persons above reproach and President Lungu should set high standards for his office,” stated Lifuka.
“The Presidency should desist the temptation to become a clearing house for public contracts. The Presidency should not allow itself to be captured by those who seek to do business with government.”