VICE-PRESIDENT Mutale Nalumango says putting investigative wings such as the Anti-Corruption Commission under the Office of the President is only meant for oversight functions as there will be no invisible hand interfering with their operations.

And Vice-President Nalumango has urged public office holders to be ready for lifestyle audits as they are not in those offices to enrich themselves.

Speaking during the Vice-President’s question time in Parliament, Friday, Vice-President Nalumango said the investigative agencies would maintain their independence in their operations despite being under the Office of the President.

She was responding to a question from the Leader of the Opposition in the House, Brian Mundubile on what motivated the President to move away from the conventional way of fighting corruption through independent bodies.

“It is true that these institutions, including at the time the colleagues, including the leader of government business, were in government, these institutions fall under the supervision of the President. This does not mean robbing or taking away the fact that they should operate independently. If we say that the independence that the member is referring to, to which maybe I didn’t fully understand, this independence is in operation because whether we like it or not, even the budgets for these institutions come through the House. Otherwise, if there is nobody to represent them here, then they will need to come here and defend their budgets. That is just how far belonging or being under the Office of the President means. It doesn’t mean daily interference in the operations of the DEC, the ACC and of the FIC. They will remain with their independence in operation,” she said.

In a follow up question, Shiwang’andu PF member of parliament Stephen Kampyongo wondered how autonomy of the investigative institutions would be guaranteed when the Statutory Instrument No.1123 of 2021 suggested that they would now be accountable to the President.

In response, Vice-President Nalumango said she would come back to the House to clear the misunderstanding on the SI but noted that what was stated was oversight and not the issue of controlling.

“I would say the interpretation of the SI is a concern, again I will say we will relook because if you are saying that it is contrary to the aspirations, and probably there is a misunderstanding. If you are saying this is the way they had operated earlier, I should think that Zambians were comfortable with that kind of oversight on them, not the issue of controlling but the oversight. In fact, Madam Speaker, the honourable member may know that in the past few years, there was more of an outcry of the invisible hand in these investigative wings and also there should be no contradiction with how the prosecution’s authority comes in because there is still a relationship on how that is reported. Again, I think I am humble enough as government that I will go back next week, you may frame it even better so that we are able to speak to this issue if it is of concern. But we have no intention, Madam Speaker, to interfere. We want when the honourable, who is my son is prosecuted, he is properly prosecuted and can answer for any alleged crimes,” she said.

And in response to a question from Mwembeshi UPND member of parliament Machila Jamba on whether government would put in place any law to allow for people to account for their wealth, Vice-President Nalumango wondered why politics had become lucrative when it was meant for service.

“To start with, it is not easy for me to pick the actual law that compelled people to show how they amassed their wealth. Probably that could be a very good proposal but we have heard the outcry indeed by the people. Being a politician, I will say this completely as we stand, politics is not [a] money making calling. It must be seen as service to the people. I heard the honourable minister yesterday saying ‘if you want to be rich, be a businessman but even in business, you should do it with integrity’. You don’t go to acquire something that you have not worked for. Politics has become extremely lucrative instead of being a service to the people,” Vice-President Nalumango said.

“Probably the honourable member for Mwembeshi may continue the call that people have been talking about, the lifestyle audits. Probably we should all be ready, we enter public office indeed as poor people, within five years we are multi-millionaires, it should be questioned if such a thing happens, how are we amassing wealth? I can’t remember the actual law but I will encourage honourable members as leaders of our society that [politics] is not for money making. It’s for you to serve the people and the people’s expectation should not also be that when you elect a member of parliament he must be rich, that is the confusion in our society. We don’t have to be rich, if you come rich, continue to be rich. If you find a new source of income, use it but don’t use your political office to acquire wealth that you have not worked for.”

In response to Sikongo UPND member of parliament Mundia Ndalamei, who wanted to find out the progress made in ensuring looters were brought to book, Vice-President Nalumango said results would soon be seen as investigative wings were now free to do their work independently.

“It is not the government’s direct executive duty to go on a witch hunt. The investigative institutions are doing their work and we believe a lot has been done. Sooner than later, Madam Speaker, we may start seeing certain fruits. Zambians are anxious, Madam Speaker, to find out what is it that went wrong. Is it indeed that there was a hand in the institutions that were supposed to lead in the fight against criminality? But because this government has come in and totally released their hands, we believe that they are working and we believe that results will be seen and people will answer for their lives and things that they may have done. I can’t give you the actual time line but surely I believe we will see the results of their work,” she said.

Responding to a question from Kantanshi PF member of parliament Anthony Mumba on when President Hakainde Hichilema would present a dossier on corruption to Parliament, Vice-President Nalumango said the President would not go to the House to be interrogated as she was available to speak for what the government stood for.

She said government was committed to ensuring that domestic arrears were dismantled but noted that the process would be done gradually as the debt was not accrued in one day.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Nalumango said government would ensure that an enabling environment was created so that jobs were created in the private sector.

“That is one area by the government itself but you have also said and the minister did mention that the private sector will create jobs. Our duty is to create an enabling environment where those private investors, entrepreneurs grow and therefore create jobs. Many jobs in the different sectors include agriculture, including mining, when those sectors grow, then jobs will be created. It is one of the things top on the agenda that our young people get jobs but let us not do politics with the lives of people, Madam Speaker. Coming into government this month will not create jobs, [we] will not create jobs using the same budget which was formulated using our colleagues’ policies. Jobs will be created as we continue,” said Vice-President Nalumango.

“I think it is not fair for us to say ‘now you have come, where are the jobs’? The jobs we promised, honourable members, were to be created not to be picked. That’s why we are not just firing people all over the place to put in people, it is creation. Even God Almighty took six days to create which is an equivalent of 6,000 years but this government is going to create jobs just watch the space. We [will] start from next year as we do our budget, even in the budget you will see the components of job creation. When the economy is growing, jobs come.”