Zambia’s public service has now descended into a criminal enterprise because of the rampant theft of public funds by Ministers, civil servants and other officials who have rapidly built properties from unearned income, says former Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Sketchley Sacika.

And Dr Sacika has charged that the current crop of Permanent Secretaries in the PF administration are currently not in control of anything as evidenced by the huge number of public officers stealing funds without punishment.

In an interview, Dr Sacika expressed shock that Zambia’s public service had rapidly deteriorated to a criminal enterprise given the rampant theft of public resources that has gone unpunished.

He wondered why public officers, who had frequently been cited for theft of public funds, had gone unpunished for their crimes, and urged President Edgar Lungu to arrest the plunder without any further delay.

“Asking Zambians to pay more taxes when the proceeds are likely to go into the pockets of ministers and civil servants and end up being misused, is not a proper way to be running the affairs of the country. The government must first of all examine whether taxes it collects are being put to good use. I find it strange that we can have such rampant theft of public funds and the President is doing nothing about it. Why is he there? Is Mr Lungu there? We expect him to run the affairs of our country in a proper way. But he’s not doing so. We must have an audit of the lifestyle of ministers, civil servants to ensure that those that have stolen money or have engaged in acts of corruption, can be brought to book. That’s what Zambians want to see,” Dr. Sacika said.

“How can we have public officers building houses, lodges without mortgages from building society or the bank? Who is giving them money to build the houses they are building? This is unacceptable! Our public service has become a criminal enterprise where those employed in the public service, where the concern of those involved in the public service is to use their positions to steal money or to engage in acts of corruption and that is unacceptable! The popularity of the PF government is compromised because of what is happening. And what is happening is that Zambia runs the risk of becoming a failed state like the Democratic Republic of Congo. We don’t want to go that way.”

And Dr Sacika charged that the current crop of Permanent Secretaries in the PF administration were not in control of anything.

“Our Constitution has defined the role of a Minister and that of a Permanent Secretary. The role of a Minister is to determine policy and to give the Ministry a strategic direction. That of a Permanent Secretary is to manage the institution and ensure that the policies of government are being implemented. But our Permanent Secretaries are not managing their ministries according to what the Constitution says, and that’s why we have rampant theft of public funds because they are not in control of anything. Why do we have Permanent Secretaries who are incapable of managing their ministries? The performance of the Permanent Secretaries at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meetings leaves much to be desired and many people are wondering how such men and women could be allowed to hold such high office in our public service. Our system of government is dysfunctional because Permanent Secretaries love imaginations and managerial skills. Our entire public service system is operating without proper management! So, people are stealing money and engaging in acts of corruption because there is no proper management and control,” he observed.

Meanwhile, Dr Sacika endorsed Transparency International Zambia’s (TIZ) call for an urgent audit into the lifestyles of the thieving public officials.

“I fully endorse the stance that Transparency International [Zambia] has taken over this matter, to institute a lifestyle audit for all government ministers. Why are ministers, civil servants, who have stolen money and are living the lifestyle, which is far in excess of their earned income, not being investigated and prosecuted? Why do we have the intelligence service? One of the functions of the intelligence service is precisely to monitor the lifestyles of people in the public service, and if they discover that you are living a lifestyle, which is beyond your earned income, they should take steps to prosecute you! The revelation by the Treasury Secretary (Fredson Yamba) that last year, civil servants stole K31 million, while other equally huge amounts of money were misused by ministers and civil servants, shows the extent to which our system of government has collapsed,” said Dr Sacika.

“How can ministers and civil servants steal or misuse tax payer’s money to that extent and nobody is penalized or held accountable? It’s incredible! How can people steal such large sums of money and nobody has been held accountable? Our system of government lacks purpose, government is failing to solve the problems on what people experience on a daily basis. The delivery of public services and implementation of government programmes is very poor. The local government system has collapsed and various State organizations are under-performing. But you have the ministers and civil servants who are busy stealing money. How do you reconcile that?”