GOVERNMENT must consult stakeholders before diverting any funds meant for universities and councils because employees are the worst affected, says the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).

Last month, Vice-President Inonge Wina told Parliament that funds meant to fund public universities had been diverted to cater for emergencies triggered by flash floods affecting certain parts of the country.

Her announcement came amidst heightened concerns surrounding government’s continued delay to settle university lecturers’ January and February salaries.

In an interview, ZCTU secretary general Cosmas Mukuka, however, said there was need to apply greater fiscal discipline in the management of the country’s public resources.

He also stressed the importance of continuous consultation with the affected parties to ensure that stakeholders were not inconvenienced.

“What is needed is discipline in the way we are managing our affairs. What is very clear is that personal emoluments are budgeted, and if personal emoluments are budgeted for, if there are other shocks, which come our way, we should bring stakeholders on board and find a solution on how we can manage certain shocks, which are coming. I think we cannot lack solutions as Zambia; we can still find solutions to these problems, but the stakeholder involvement has been very low. Even when we are saying, ‘let us put our heads together,’ it should be all stakeholders. Let the consultation process be encouraged in most cases,” Mukuka advised.

“We have the Economics Association, the Chamber of Mines, the trade unions, the Church also can still find a solution. As it was reported that some resources were diverted to certain situations, in my view, if the Church and other civil society groupings were given a task even to open an ‘SOS’ account, we would have managed even soliciting funds from that. Let us open up and make a permanent committee of the people who should be looking at mobilization of resources so that if there is another occurrence of the same, we should not go and touch sensitive money of the Treasury that is meant to fund universities and councils to direct it to such situations.”

Meanwhile, the trade unionist cautioned that the continued rise in Zambia’s annual rate of inflation would negatively affect the survival of workers as the value of incomes would diminish.

The annual rate of inflation increased to 13.9 per cent last month from 12.5 per cent in January.

“It has a major impact because what we will be doing now is that the salaries will be eroded; the salaries from the workers, even if there is collective bargaining, as long as the inflation is still not being corrected, it will erode the salary and the value of the kwacha, which can still be a very bad impact on the survival of the workers. Some of these shocks need to be corrected because it cannot solve a problem when we increase salaries, you will find that it is eroded by the inflation so that also affects the situation. More money will be chasing few goods. So, it is the question of solving the inflation rate so that workers can benefit so that salaries are not eroded,” said Mukuka.