TRANSPARENCY International Zambia Chapter president Rueben Lifuka says the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) should complement the work of Smart Zambia by investigating all culprits who have been swindling government of its resources through unjustified salaries and benefits.

And Lifuka has urged Smart Zambia to ensure the exercise to clean up the government payroll should cover all ministries and departments.

In a statement to News Diggers, Lifuka said law enforcement agencies should start applying criminal sanctions as a deterrent measure against people who swindle the government of its resources.

“Transparency International Zambia, first and foremost would like to commend the measures that the government, through Smart Zambia Institute, is taking to clean up the payroll and conduct head counts of government employees. This exercise is in fact long overdue and should have been conducted much earlier than this. The problem of a bloated government staff establishment and corresponding payroll has been a source of concern for many years and Dr. Martin Mtonga has vindicated many stakeholders’ calls against the massive loss of public resources paid out to phantom employees or deceased persons,” Lifuka stated.

“It is our expectation that this exercise will cover all government ministries and departments. It is time that we seriously addressed the problem of national wastage of public resources which has become prevalent. Further, we would like to urge the Drug Enforcement Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission, to ably complement this exercise by investigating all culprits who have been swindling the government through these unjustified salary and benefit payments, and bring them to justice. We want to warn against the use of traditional administrative disciplinary action for such fraudulent activities. It is time that as a country, we sent a strong message against such unscrupulous activities. The solution lies in applying criminal sanctions to serve as a deterrent to would be offenders and not merely effecting transfers of erring officers from one post to another.”

He stated that there was also need for the government to audit all the contracts held by food suppliers to various government institutions.

“Similarly, it is critical for the Government to conduct a comprehensive audit of all public procurement contracts to ensure that the rightful persons/companies are doing the work contracted for, identify the beneficial owners and most importantly, to assess the validity and cost of the contracts held. We continue to hear of a number of allegations of fraudulent activities in this area where companies are being paid for not supplying anything or invoices are inflated. We want to see the Auditor General’s office and other authorities taking an urgent audit of these food supply transactions involving different government entities including schools, prisons, hospitals etc,” stated Lifuka. “We cannot continue to hemorrhage public resources like this in the midst of many developmental challenges. It is shocking to see how the government continues to lose resources in many ways, including unnecessary expenditure, inflated invoices, over specification of public works, etc. It is time that Zambia conducted a massive campaign against national wastage of public resources and sealed all loopholes.”