UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka says the mismanagement of K1.3 billion COVID-19 funds should be an indication to Zambians that the PF government cannot be trusted with the management of public resources.

In a statement, Thursday, Katuka said President Edgar Lungu seemed to be sustaining a thriving environment for the plunder of public resources.

“We, in the United Party for National Development (UPND), wish to condemn in the strongest terms the competition for the plunder of public resources that has continued to be the norm under President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) regime. What is even more disappointing is that as government ministries, departments and other related institutions are engaged in wanton abuse of resources which belong to the Zambian people, President Lungu seems to be sustaining the environment for the plunder to thrive,” Katuka said.

“The recent revelations in the interim Auditor-General’s Report on the utilisation of COVID-19 funds, in which a total of over K1.3 billion has been mismanaged in various transactions, are just the latest in in the numerous cases of plunder that have characterised Mr Lungu’s presidency since he assumed office in 2015.With this report, which is a government document, we have further been vindicated in our previous concerns about the rampant corruption and mismanagement of public resources which should, ordinarily, be used for the benefit of the Zambian people.”

Katuka said the party was delighted that The Interim Audit Report on the utilisation of COVID-19 Funds had confirmed the massive levels of corruption by the PF government.

“We take note that the interim Auditor-General’s Report is coming from a supreme audit institution which has, in the past, revealed similar cases of plunder of colossal sums of money. But each time we have raised our voices against this free-for-all stealing competition, we have been sarcastically challenged to provide evidence. The UPND and president Hakainde Hichilema are now delighted that this evidence is not being provided by us but the PF administration itself through a government institution which it superintends,” Katuka said.

“We want to remind the Zambian people that this plunder that has just been laid bare is not new but has been ongoing right from the time Mr Lungu took office. Barely one year of Mr Lungu’s ascendancy to power to take charge of the country’s resources, misapplication of public funds rose to K162 million as highlighted in the 2016 Auditor-General’s Report, the highest in the PF’s first five years in office. This is a pure case of Uubomba mwibala, alya mwibala as encouraged by President Lungu himself to his government and party officials.”

He stated that culprits involved in the mismanagement of funds needed to be arrested as only charging them was not positive in the fight against corruption.

“As UPND, we further take note of the swiftness with which Secretary to the Cabinet Simon Miti has charged 25 controlling officers over the misuse of COVID-19 funds in government ministries and departments. However, we feel that this action is an exercise in futility which is calculated at hoodwinking Zambians and saving the PF government from embarrassment. We say this not out of malice or dislike for Dr Miti whom we know very well from his days as controlling officer at the Ministry of Health where he, too, was implicated in similar cases of plunder,” Katuka said.

“We wish to further remind Dr Miti that the action to charge erring controlling officers and their accomplices in government is nothing in the fight against corruption. What is needed is the arrest , prosecution and jailing of culprits. Therefore, we are not convinced that this administrative action will do anything to halt the scourge of the spiraling cases of plunder. As UPND, we are alive to the fact that controlling institutionalised corruption and misuse of state resources is beyond the sugar-coated administrative measures coming from the office of the Secretary to the Cabinet.”

Katuka stated that the country deserved a government that had political will to fight corruption.

“There is need for political will to fight corruption to begin from President Lungu who, unfortunately, has been the source of careless utterances such as uubomba mwibala, alya mwibala, which have the potential to escalate plunder and corruption to exponential levels. Worse still, there are those public service workers who try to capitalise on the situation when top political figures of any regime are constantly dragged into the courts of law on allegations of plunder and corruption because they have lost the fear to steal,” stated Katuka.

“With this unprecedented plunder of COVID-19 funds and corruption, the UPND and President Hichilema are convinced that Zambians are now aware that their resources are not safe in the hands of Mr Lungu and his sticky-fingered PF regime. Zambians deserve a better and caring set of new leaders of the UPND calibre because retaining the PF regime beyond 2021 will be tantamount to surrendering themselves to perpetual poverty.”