PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema has revealed that some people are trying to make last minute movements of stolen funds.
And President Hichilema says there are lot of people who are not working but are on the payroll, which is exerting more stress on the Treasury.
Meanwhile, President Hichilema says his choice of Bank of Zambia Governor will reinforce the confidence which his administration has inspired.
In an interview with BBC’s Lukwesa Burak which aired on Wednesday evening, President Hichilema said he inherited an extremely difficult situation.
“I have inherited an extremely difficult situation, a very bad situation. We knew that the situation wouldn’t be that good economically, socially but the hole is much bigger than we expected and we are just sort of digging in now. For example, the debt position itself was not fully disclosed and we are picking issues around there. We are picking issues in terms of movement of cash which is really not supposed to be the case but we believe we will be on top of things very soon in terms of knowing the extent of the damage that has been done but it is a lot of damage,” President Hichilema said.
“We are talking about the full extent of the debt, we are talking about if you like the levels of corruption that we are beginning to pick, a lot of illicit movements of funds. I don’t want to pre-empt things but what we are picking is horrifying. They are still trying to do things now even when we made pronouncements very clearly that we want to stabilise the country. People are still trying to make last minute movements of funds which are unauthorised, which are not theirs. But we will get to the bottom of that very soon.”
And President Hichilema revealed that some people who were not working were also on the payroll.
“Also, for example if you look at the size of the payroll, you begin to see that there are lot of people who are not working but they are on the payroll, exerting a further burden on the Treasury which is already stressed,” he said.
When asked why the IMF was key to the country’s recovery and how that would fit in given that a quarter of Zambia’s foreign debt was held by China which had secretive clauses, President Hichilema said his government meant serious business by wanting controlling frivolous expenditure.
“We ourselves as citizens of Zambia, we ourselves as a government, as a new leadership of this country sent a clear message that we are here to do business and serious business. We are here to control frivolous expenditure, to be prudent, to make sure that we understand that resources are scarce and they ought to be utilised in a most optimal manner. That is very important for us before we can extend request to anybody to assist us. We must help ourselves, this is fundamental; that is who we are,” President Hichilema said.
“And already, we are beginning to show that side of us that we are different, we come in with integrity, we come in with self-restrain on utilisation or accessing public resources. Then we can walk with our heads high to talk to the IMF that we need their support. We are actually not concerned about the IMF [conditionalities] our own minimum requirements are much higher than what the IMF wants I think that is what the people of Zambia needs. They need zero tolerance to corruption and we are bringing that to the table.”
He disclosed that his government was in the initial stages of talks with China on the debt portfolio.
“You talked about China, we are aware about the Chinese debt portfolio, we understand what is going on roughly. And the Chinese are aware that if the economy is not reorganised to bring about growth, their own debt stock is at risk. They understand that we need to talk, we are talking we have started the initial stage. They have indicated that they will cooperate and I think we are able to do things with them but we have to have this economy stabilised. We all want to develop the country; develop the resource endowments this country has. The mineral resources, the water resources, the land resources, the people resources so that we can grow this economy and make it credible to do business with anyone around the world,” he said.
When asked why the appointment of service chiefs was a priority, President Hichilema said his very first appointment was that of Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane to the position of Minister of Finance because he wanted to send a message that the economy came first.
Meanwhile, President Hichilema said people would be happy about his choice of Bank of Zambia Governor.
“The first appointment we ever made was the Minister of Finance and he was appointed alone out of maybe a cabinet of, I don’t know the number, I don’t want to reveal to you too early but we made that appointment to send a message that the economy comes first. Trade and investment comes first in our efforts to reconstruct the economy, to reconstruct the social welfare of our people which can only be funded by a functioning economy. To reunite our people, to reunite our country then the second aspect is rebuilding our economy, reconstructing our economy. We made the first ministerial announcement of the Minister of Finance, we don’t want a single shot of a learning curve, we want to get in business. You will see our choice of Bank of Zambia Governor, so all of this well-orchestrated,” said President Hichilema.
“The defense forces are part of what we call the importance of keeping peace and stability in our country. For us to develop the country, to push the economic side of the country which is in a derailing situation now, we need peace and stability. The defense forces did a very good job in the transition before the election, on the election, around the election, post-election, there were a lot of temptations, they did a good job. But we also need another crop to carry on that will ensure that we have peace and stability. So that we can have an opportunity to focus on the economic agenda.”