ACTIONAID Zambia country director Nalucha Ziba says the revelations by the Financial Intelligence Centre about how a government entity awarded three contracts amounting to over US$30 million to an individual and two companies which presented falsified documents is a pure act of criminality.

In an interview, Ziba said the revelation was an indication of how weak the governance systems were especially under the PF government.

“We have reviewed and analysed the report by the Financial Intelligence Centre where two companies linked to PIP [were awarded contracts] in terms of about $30 million using forged documents. We find the actions as deliberate and a pure act of criminality as it shows how weak our governance systems are especially under the previous regime. It is also a clear demonstration that public procurement is one of the highest exposed government activities to corruption. Hence the need to immediately address this problem with the urgency it deserves by undertaking vigorous legal and policy reforms as well as enhancing prosecution of perpetrators of corruption,” Ziba said.

“Last year the government amended the Public Procurement Act whose operations commenced this year on 16th April 2021, as issued by the then minister of finance. The amended Public Procurement Act provides for the mitigation of some of the techniques used by perpetrators of corruption and public procurement-related transactions. Section 12 of the Act provides for benchmarking of prices for common use applied in subsection two. And the undertaking of price reasonable net analysis for items not covered in the quarterly market price index subsection four. This provision mitigates the problem of over pricing and consequently assuring of value for money in public procurement.”

Ziba called on the UPND government to effectively implement the public procurement act and mitigate public procurement-related corruption.

“Furthermore, the act in section 19 generally provides for the corrupt cohesive as well as obstructive policies and fraudulent practice and conflict of interest. Section 16 of the Act also provides for E-procurement which increases transparency and facilitates access to public tenders in the cited procurement. E-procurement simplifies information exchange. We are therefore of the view that the public procurement Act of 2020 still needs strengthening in the area of satisfaction and reasons for single sourcing and prosecution of perpetrators of public procurement-related corruption as suggested by most stakeholders even before it was enacted,” she said.

“We also expect the new government under their zero tolerance to corruption policy to show political will and effectively implement the public procurement act and mitigate the public procurement-related corruption as indicated in the Financial Intelligence Typology Report. We also expect the law enforcement agencies to move in quickly to investigate and prosecute such kinds of corrupt activities. Things are reoccurring year in and year out.”

Meanwhile, Ziba said the UPND government’s commitment to fighting corruption would be measured by how they would positively deal with cases reported by the FIC and those in the Auditor General’s Report.

“Issues to do with corruption in this country largely need a lot of political will. Therefore if we were to make any meaningful gains as a country in terms of preventing corruption, we also need to see political will when it comes to activities such as how the powers that be will be treating such reports when it comes to the Financial Intelligence [Centre] Report, the Auditor General’s Report. As we have necessary law enforcement agencies that are by law are supposed to undertake their mandate and ensure that such issues of corruption are brought to book and thoroughly investigated, including the Judiciary so that even the sentences which are being designated from such cases adequately add up to the damage which has been done to the country,” said Ziba.

“So, for us we remain hopeful and watch in terms of what will be the stance of the current government on corruption and that can only be measured by action. But if it will be paying lip service as we saw from the previous regime ignoring and trashing such reports then it will be unfortunate for this country.”