TRANSPARENCY International Zambia has called on President Edgar Lungu to ask Health Minister Dr Chitalu Chilufya to step aside in order to facilitate smooth investigations into his alleged corruption case.
Responding to a press query, TIZ president Rueben Lifuka said Dr Chilufya played a sensitive role in the multi-sectoral response to COVID-19 and such allegations were an unnecessary distraction.
He said the Anti Corruption Commission should be given the independence and latitude to discharge its mandate, hence the need for Dr Chilufya to step aside.
“Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) has taken note of the decision by Anti- Corruption Commission to record a warn and caution statement from Minister of Health Dr Chitalu Chilufya as part of ongoing investigations into his case. It is our expectation that the ACC will pursue all allegations of corruption or wrong doing as defined in the Anti Corruption Act. It has always been our considered view that the ACC is given the independence and latitude to discharge its mandate professionally and therefore this decision needs the support of all Zambians. This is just the first steps in the process and we are cautiously optimistic that the ACC has done its work and ready to move to the next stage and hopefully bring this matter before the courts of law at the earliest opportunity,” Lifuka stated.
“Dr Chilufya presently plays a sensitive role in the multisectoral response to COVID-19 and such allegations will be an unnecessary distraction. We know that in the recent past, President Lungu, for reasons he alone can explain has failed to act against Ministers facing such allegations, but we still call on him to ask Hon Dr Chitalu to step aside in order to facilitate a smooth investigation into his case. We believe that the Minister stepping aside will be in conformity with standard practice where public servants that are being investigated have stepped aside to allow for investigations to be carried out independently and without any potential undue influence.”
He said the numerous allegations of corruption against political figures were worrying and would contribute to dwindling public trust in those assigned public responsibilities.
“The numerous allegations of corruption against political figures and senior government officials, should be a cause for concern to all Zambians. There has to be a clear understanding of what is causing this. It is one thing to allege that the public and the media are sensationalizing matters but it is another to demonstrate that as a country, we have sufficient safeguards against abuse of entrusted power for private gain. The continued trend of political leaders and senior government officers being accused of corruption and various other wrong doings, will contribute to dwindling public trust in those assigned public responsibilities,” he stated.
“Our call for lifestyle audits for all elected leaders including the President is fortified by all these allegations. Again, we want to underscore that there is no need for apprehension about lifestyle audits from any person whose dealings are above board, and we fail to understand the reasons why government leaders have been resisting this measure. Lifestyle audits will put to bed all speculations about illicit enrichment involving ministers.”
Lifuka said there was need to start interrogating barriers and obstacles which ACC and other law enforcement agencies faced in discharging their functions.
“The ACC and other law enforcement agencies have the unenviable task to restore public confidence in the fight against corruption. The reality which ACC and other law enforcement agencies have to deal with is the growing public cynicism that such high profile cases are nothing but a ruse and go nowhere. We still believe in the ACC and will continue to support them to do the best that they can even under difficult circumstances. We ask that all those who are under investigations fully cooperate. It is also important that as a country, we start to interrogate some of the barriers and obstacles that ACC and other law enforcement agencies, face in discharging their functions,” stated Lifuka.
“We will need to revisit the law and ensure that there are no ambiguities or lacunae which are making it difficult to arrest and prosecute those who are corrupt. For instance, it is important that the remit of the Anti Corruption Act is unequivocally stated to include corrupt activities involving everyone and not just public officers. We would like to see those holding State Office, namely: the President, Vice President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Member of Parliament, Minister and Provincial Minister as defined in the constitution, to be included. If indeed, the weakness lies in the law, we should change this and tighten the anti-corruption regime. It is an act of grave injustice to have people walking scot-free mainly on legal technicalities.”