TRANSPARENCY International says Zambia’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI, has dropped by one point; from 34 in 2019 to 33 in 2020, an indication that corruption has become endemic.
And TIZ says the year 2020 saw high level irregularities in public procurement, citing the highly questionable awarding of a US$17 million contract for the supply of medical kits to Honeybee Pharmacy, a private company which did not meet the requirements.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Corruption Commission says it always recommends that those being investigated are suspended.
Speaking at the launch of the CPI, Thursday, TIZ president Sampa Kalungu said the country’s rank also dropped from 113 out of 180 countries in 2019 to 117 out of 180 countries in 2020.
“Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), shows that Zambia’s score has dropped by one point from 34 in 2019 to 33 in 2020, while the country’s rank has also dropped from 113 out of 180 countries in 2019 to 117 out of 180 countries in 2020. This drop entails that the situation as far as corruption in Zambia is concerned deteriorated over the course of last year. TIZ is concerned that the 2020 CPI continues on a very worrying trend that shows a steady decline for Zambia in the eight years since 2013. In this period, Zambia has dropped 5 points on the CPI, suggesting that corruption in Zambia has become endemic,” Kalungu said.
He said Zambia’s COVID-19 response, was a clear example of the extent to which corruption undermined Zambia’s ability to mount an effective and equitable response to the pandemic.
“TIZ is cognizant of the fact that the year 2020 was a difficult one for the whole world due to the break out of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 CPI was therefore rooted in the context of COVID-19 and unfortunately reveals that corruption is more pervasive in countries least equipped to handle the pandemic, with Zambia not being an exception. The revelation by the Auditor General’s report last year to the effect that around K1.3 billion worth of COVID funds had been mismanaged by the Ministry of Health, which confirmed the fears that TI-Z had raised around the potential opportunities for corruption in Zambia’s COVID-19 response, was a clear example of the extent to which corruption undermined Zambia’s ability to mount an effective and equitable response to COVID-19, highlighting the importance of transparency and anti-corruption measures in emergency situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
“The year 2020 also saw high level irregularities in public procurement, such as the highly questionable awarding of a US$17 million contract for the supply of medical kits to Honeybee Pharmacy, a private company that did not meet the requirements of such a huge contract. Given that Honeybee Pharmacy went on to supply unsafe health kits which were ultimately distributed to the public by the Ministry of Health, the Honeybee scandal reinforces the 2020 CPI’s finding that corruption poses a critical threat to citizens’ lives and livelihoods, especially when combined with a public health emergency such as COVID-19.”
Kalungu observed that countries which had higher corruption levels tended to be the worst violators of rule of law, Zambia included.
“TI-Z would also like to highlight the 2020 CPI finding that countries with higher corruption levels also tend to be the worst violators of rule of law and democratic institutions during the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, this also rings true for Zambia. Over the course of 2020, we witnessed the questionable manner in which the Zambia Police Service applied the Public Order Act, which resulted in significant restrictions on the space available for civic engagement,” Kalungu said.
“We also saw government officials trivializing the state of corruption in Zambia in ways that caused concern about the extent to which the government was committed to the fight against this scourge. All these issues have an implication on Zambia’s international standing and the fact that the CPI score for Zambia was computed on the basis of research from nine international data sources suggests that the way we practiced good governance and how we responded to corruption as a country in 2020 has had a negative effect on our CPI score, hence the one point drop we have seen in the 2020 index. In order to enhance the fight against corruption in general and better respond specifically to the corruption induced through crises such as COVID-19.”
He recommended that institutions such as the Auditor General’s office must be strengthened.
“Oversight institutions such as the Office of the Auditor General and Parliament must be strengthened to ensure resources reach those most in need. Related to this, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and oversight institutions must have sufficient funds, resources, and independence to perform their duties. There is a need to ensure open and transparent contracting to combat wrongdoing, identify conflicts of interest and ensure fair pricing. There is no doubt that public procurement in Zambia has been prone to corruption and the need to strengthen mechanisms aimed at addressing this cannot be overemphasized. The Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) should be more proactive in this regard,” said Kalungu.
The CPI index also indicated that Sub-Saharan Africa was the lowest performing region.
“With an average score of 32, Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest performing region on the CPI, showing little improvement from previous years and underscoring a need for urgent action. A total of 49 countries were assessed in Sub-Saharan Africa for the 2020 CPI . With a score of 66, the Seychelles consistently earns top marks in the region, followed by Botswana (60) and Cape Verde (58). At the bottom of the index are Sudan (16), Somalia (12) and South Sudan (12),” read the report.
And ACC Director Legal Prosecution Silumesi Machula said the Commission recommended the suspension of public officials who were facing corruption charges.
“As far as we are concerned, the law is very clear, If you are being investigated, section 43 of the ACC Act I think is very specific it provides for what should happen to a person that is being investigated. If you are a public officer and you are being investigated, definitely you are supposed to be suspended. As an institution, we end at informing the public institution to say ‘so and so is being investigated’ and they should take appropriate and administrative action. That is where we end as the ACC. Our mandate does not go to firing a person or to suspend that particular person,” Machula said.
When asked if the Commission worked only when instructed, he denied.
“This perception.. I am glad it remains as a perception. When I look at the cases we have in court right now, there is no segregation to say ‘because this is a politician so we shall not prosecute.’ Right now we are prosecuting high profile individuals, politicians are being prosecuted in our courts of law. I am sure you are aware of how many we have taken to court so far. So we are not selective and we do not wait to be told. Once we have the information from the public that something has happened, we will definitely take it on. So really the aspect of being selective is not there. As at October, we had about 18 convictions for 2020 and those were mixed cases involving different people from different sectors of society,” said Machula.
Meanwhile, Registrar at the High Court of Zambia Prince Mwiinga said the Judiciary was not subject to the direction of any authority.
“The Judiciary is not subject to the direction of any person, body of persons or authority of whatever kind. Decisions of the Judiciary are based on the evidence adduced in court and the law that we applied to that evidence. And the adjudicator decides. Matters to do with corruption are even better, transparency is there because if one is not happy with the Magistrate you can appeal to the High Court. So the fact that someone has appeared before an adjudicator, facing corruption does not mean automatically that a person will be convicted; it will depend on the evidence,” said Mwiinga.