FORMER commerce minister Bob Sichinga has urged President Hakainde Hichilema not to immediately fire all controlling officers yet because they need to account for how public resources were utilised in the previous regime.
And Sichinga says President Hichilema needs a stable environment to ensure forensic examinations are legally and carefully done.
In an interview, Sichinga said putting new controlling officers in ministries at the moment would not be the best thing.
“Let us go to the Ministry of Health, that is where it has been a big channel of taking money out. Who are you going to ask? The moment you put a new PS; how will they answer? They will have no idea! Because they were not part of the stealing. In government there are systems which you have to follow, if you are going to do a tender, there are procedures to follow in terms of the tendering process. The Auditor General uses that information to determine whether the process has been correct or not. So you cannot just remove the same people who have been part and parcel of what has been taking place. You need them in order for them to incriminate themselves,” said Sichinga .
“They have to tell you what they have done. When I was chairman of public accounts, the difficulties you always had at Parliament is that you have someone coming, you are asking them that give us the answer to this and that, they will say I was not the PS then. But you are not going to ask them because he is the PS who took over. So, you cannot expect someone to answer for one who has already gone. Basically, it is a very difficult thing to expect that you will simply walk in there, fire everybody and go to court, go to court with what evidence?”
And Sichinga said there was need to also put a limit on the money that was being withdrawn to ensure that no suspicious transactions were done.
“For every debit, there is a credit, there is no way they can get away with it. If you withdraw money, there is a document in that bank. What they are withdrawing, the remittances outside that FIC can stop, they have the power to do that. The banks themselves can draw the attention of the Central Bank or those from FIC ‘that this is suspicious. So, the money that has been withdrawn, all they have to do is to say “with immediate effect you cannot draw more than this amount’. They have to be held accountable,” said Sichinga.
“Remittances you can put a stop, that ‘no remittance will take place during this time, we want to stabilize’, but it has to come from the Bank of Zambia. Because you want it to be legal, if you do it differently, they will say you are not different from PF. So, he [President Hichilema] needs a stable environment, we all need a stable environment in which we can then undertake this. Where are they even going to run to? Even Lungu, where can he go? We all know, I can tell you that Lungu and his cahoots, the money is in Dubai, I can tell you that but it is not under their names. How are you going to trace it? They will not say this for Lungu. Forensic examinations are very tricky, you have to have people that are specialised like this lady [Mary] Chirwa. So, it will be done, you have to appoint a person to lead the investigation, you have to have a team that is going to be dedicated.”