JUSTICE Minister Given Lubinda says Zambia doesn’t seem to make progress in the fight against corruption despite the formation of a number of institutions such as Anti-Corruption Commission and Transparency International Zambia.

And Lubinda says the Anti-Corruption Commission must start verifying politicians’ wealth declarations to ensure they are accurate.

Speaking when he officiated at Zambia’s first ever Anti-corruption conference, hosted by Transparency International Zambia, Tuesday, Lubinda wondered why Zambia had failed to produce results in 30 years of fighting corruption.

“Some three or four years ago when Mr [Rueben] Lifuka was still heading TIZ, I was heading APNAC. We made attempt by establishing the ACC forum to bring together various organisations to collaborate in the fight against corruption. I am therefore, excited to hear that today you have managed to bring together more than 30 organisations; government institutions and CSOs. As you may all know, the fight against corruption is a collaboration act. It can’t be left to government alone or CSOs but everyone should be involved. Zambia seems not to make progress in the fight against corruption despite the formation of a number of institutions such as the Anti Corruption Commission, TIZ, APNAC. What has gone amiss?” Lubinda asked.

“Is there something that we are not doing right? Or are all these organizations TIZ, ACC, the police, the judiciary, Parliament are all just for nothing? These are some of the questions I ask myself.”

And Lubinda suggested that ACC starts verifying politicians’ wealth declarations.

“Could this be the time for us to provide verification of these declarations? Could this be the time for us to empower the Anti-Corruption Commission to check all these declarations and verify to see that one Given Lubinda is not declaring with the intention of blowing up his assets levels so that in a few year’s time when the ACC comes, and they compare with what declared, they see that it correlates? These are questions I would like you to reflect. Could this also be time for us to start challenging ourselves as a country that in every entity we conduct lifestyle audits?” Lubinda suggested.

“And if so, should this be only for the governance at the exclusion of all else? Where should it start from? Should it start at the top of the hierarchy, should it start at the centre of the hierarchy? Should it start at the bottom of the hierarchy? All these are questions that I think you gathered here should reflect. Recently, your government amended a number of pieces of legislation and in amending them, two cardinal principals issues were being looked at one enhancing transparency to curb corruption and secondly to make them Zambiacentric. The one that comes to mind immediately is the Zambia Public Procurement Act, we recently amended it to make sure that the procurements are brought to greater scrutiny by the public so that members of the public will now sit at the ZPPA. But also to make sure that procurements by government prioritize Zambian suppliers. Now the question that I keep asking myself is once we have done this, shall it curtail the incidence of corruption or shall we just enhance it by the fact that Zambians may not have the resources to provide to the procurement? Will they now become fronts? These are questions I would like us to reflect.”

Lubinda said corruption statistics in the country were not impressive.

“I heard the statistics and obviously statics are not impressive I admit, they are not impressive. I don’t think any one can be impressed by those statics. All of us are concerned. Have we done an introspection? Have we done an interrogation to see what is it that could be feeding this perception? Is this the behavior of the people? Is it the accumulation of unaccounted for wealth by some people? Or could it be as a result of proliferations of media? How often are we entertained to accusations and counter accusations about corruption? How much do we seek to verify those stories? You hear of this scandal, that scandal and when the public expected all those stories, obviously they expect the ACC will move in and effect arrest and if they don’t, the perception is created that ACC is itself the mother of corruption,” Lubinda said.

“Is this time for us to start also looking at strengthening the laws against fictitious and frivolous statements about each other. We live in a country where somebody can just wake up and say ‘XYZ has bought this and that property corruptly’ and the story is allowed to just fly. Unless that person, the victim is strong enough to go and wait on a long queue at the Judiciary, that story will be taken as the truth. And when people try to challenge it the answer will be ‘why didn’t that person not sue to prove their innocence?’ And those who dare sue even when their case is ruled in their favour, how many of those media houses have the appetite to report?”

Lubinda also urged ACC to share it’s frustrations.

“I am happy that the ACC is here. You have a huge contribution in the fight against corruption. Please share with everyone your frustration. Share with everyone your findings. Share with everyone why we are perceived as people that tolerate and condone corruption,” said Lubinda.

And TIZ executive director Maurice Nyambe said according to the Corruption Perception Index for 2019, Zambia had a score of 34 and ranking of 113.

“Allow me to highlight a few statistics. According to the TI Corruption Perception Index for 2019, Zambia has a score of 34 and ranking of 113. The score was 35 and ranking of 105, entailing that we dropped by one on the score and eight places on the rankings. These grim statistics cause us to ask questions about the efficacy of the interventions that have implemented by government, private sector and civil society in a bid to tackle a problem that threatens to reverse every grain that we have made in our country,” Nyambe said.

He said there was less progress in the fight against corruption despite the trend analysis report by the Financial Intelligence Centre as well as the Auditor General’s reports.

“The revelations that we have seen in the Auditor General reports over the years, trends analyses reports by FIC and the reported stories that we continue to see in the media of corrupt activities in both the public and private sector all suggest that we are making very little progress, if any, to tackle the problem of corruption in Zambia,” said Nyambe.