UPND spokesperson Charles Kakoma says Secretary to Cabinet Dr Simon Miti and government are hiding behind controlling officers on the mismanagement of COVID-19 donations because they are the main perpetrators of the abuse of funds.

In an interview, Kakoma said the PF government was hiding behind controlling officers because it was a known fact that COVID-19 donations were highly politicised by the ruling party.

“I think the Secretary to Cabinet and government are just hiding behind controlling officers. You know that this whole COVID-19 issue, including the funding and resource mobilisation, has been politicised. It is the politicians that have been directing resources. We saw politicians distributing COVID-19 materials, they gave themselves COVID-19 materials to start distributing. The question is: how did they access those COVID-19 materials? They are not civil servants, but we saw them distributing those materials. We have also been seeing the Minister of Health (Dr Chitalu Chilufya) who was personally receiving donations from stakeholders, people who were concerned were going to the Ministry of Health headquarters to donate and he was personally receiving! So, how were they accounting for those donations?” Kakoma asked.

He wondered why Dr Miti only listed controlling officers and left out the Health Minister on the mismanagement of COVID-19 funds.

“We cannot just blame controlling officers, the whole thing reaches up to the politicians, including the highest level at the Ministry, the Minister himself. So, how is it that people below the Minister can be cited and the Minister himself is clean? That deserves an explanation. In fact, in other countries, when things go wrong in the Ministry, the first person to resign is the Minister himself, voluntarily resigning because things have backfired. But in Zambia, it doesn’t happen that way, they even fight to remain in the positions. Unfortunately, the appointing authority, the President, is also playing a blind eye to that,” Kakoma said.

“The other civil servants, those in law enforcement agencies, I think have given up on this fight against corruption. How many times are they going to investigate the Minister of Health and nothing happens? They investigated him, took him to court and the results are that the courts acquitted him. Obviously, many people are still questioning how he was acquitted. Do you think the same civil servants will still go and investigate him and take him to court? They think that they will just be burning their fingers, they will end up even losing their jobs instead of the person they are investigating. The buck stops at the politicians.”

He further cautioned that the PF would continue abusing COVID-19 funds, adding that the K1.3 billion, which was mismanaged and cited in the Interim Audit Report, was just a tip of the iceberg.

“They will continue to take advantage of these funds; we saw in the recent past, the PF donating COVID funds. Up to now, its source is still unknown, K1,600 to each person. It was traced to or widely believed to be COVID funds, whether it was an international donor or the UN, so on. Indeed, if it was the UN donating, they will be concerned how that money, which was meant to be used to help in the COVID fight, was being politicised. It was used for campaigns. It is only politicians that campaign; you don’t expect civil servants, controlling officers, whom they are now blaming to be the ones responsible for those campaigns,” said Kakoma.

“DMMU was receiving donations and we don’t know how they were accounting for those donations. The first one month or two months, we saw the Office of the Vice-President making a stable attempt to publish the donations, after that, it was quiet. So, what has happened? Are they trying to hide other donations that are coming in? No one knows how much is being donated now. When people just receive those donations and there is no one recording them in the government books that they have received these things, they are taking them to their homes for personal use or for campaigns. They have failed to pay tailors of children face masks, but the money was there. So, probably, even what the Auditor General has revealed is nothing, it is a tip of the iceberg because that Auditor General’s Report is old; it doesn’t capture the recent happenings, so the figure is even higher.”