TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TI-Z) executive director Maurice Nyambe says his organisation will help promote accountability in Zambia’s COVID-19 response in order to avoid last year’s occurrence where K1.3 billion was mismanaged.

And World Bank Country Director Dr Sahr Kpundeh says addressing corruption requires collective action amongst institutions of governance.

Meanwhile, University Teaching Hospital (UTH) Director of Clinical Care and Diagnostic Services Dr Alex Makupe says it is the responsibility of every well meaning Zambian to get vaccinated.

Speaking during the launch of the TI-Zambia COVID-19 Programme, Friday, Nyambe said it was disheartening that even with lives at risk, certain individuals engaged in blatant corruption.

“As the Zambia Chapter of Transparency International, we acknowledge that despite the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the response to it, by virtue of its emergency and urgent nature, can and does provide opportunities for corruption and fraud to occur. These risks have been evidenced and have emanated not just globally, but also in our own country, as was seen in the Auditor General’s Interim Report on the Utilisation of COVID resources in November last year, which highlighted mismanagement of COVID funds to the tune of K1.3 billion. Indeed, it is disheartening that even with lives at risk, certain individuals engage in blatant corruption against the best interests of the majority of citizens,” Nyambe said.

“As part of a global movement with a mandate to fight and challenge corruption in all its forms, we as TI Zambia have seen the need to position ourselves in contributing to the promotion of accountability and integrity in Zambia’s response to the COVID pandemic. This positioning would of course not be possible without the support of our partners, the World Bank and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who have provided the resources to enable us implement the two COVID projects that are currently running.”

Nyambe said TIZ intended to play its part in ensuring that resources meant for the COVID-19 response were safeguarded.

“TI-Zambia also acknowledges the need for concerted efforts in Zambia’s COVID response. In order to do that effectively, we took the deliberate decision to collaborate with a range of stakeholders such as, among others, the Ministry of Health, Zambia National Public Health Institute, the Anti-Corruption Commission, Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority, and other civil society organisations, all of who are driven by a mutual passion to ensure that Zambia’s response to the pandemic is as effective as can be,” he said.

“Through the COVID programme that we are launching today (Friday), we as TI-Zambia see ourselves as playing a complementary role to what government through the Ministry of Health is doing in responding to the pandemic. So while we may not be on the frontline saving lives in the manner our gallant health personnel are doing, we intend to play our part in ensuring that resources meant for the COVID response are safeguarded and protected from corruption and other forms of abuse.”

Nyambe said TI-Z would also ensure that fraud risks along the supply chain were not only identified, but adequately addressed.

“Under the COVID-19 Programme, our work will focus on monitoring the resources provided to Zambia by the World Bank, to ensure that corruption and fraud risks along the supply chain are not only identified but also adequately addressed. We will further be monitoring the distribution of COVID vaccines so as to contribute to the transparency and fairness of the process in ensuring that that the vaccines reach even the most vulnerable and hard to reach populations. We acknowledge that vaccines save lives but at the same time, we are very aware of the myths surrounding them. We therefore pledge our support to help the Ministry of Health in demystifying these fallacies even as we implement our initiatives at national and community levels,” said Nyambe.

“In implementing our COVID Programme, we will continue to advocate for access to information to promote transparency and integrity in Zambia’s COVID response. We will also advocate for accountability of resources going towards the pandemic, and that appropriate action be taken against anyone who is discovered to be corruptly profiting from the COVID response. Thus working with Law Enforcement Agencies, other civil society organisations and the media, we envisage enhanced citizens’ participation and monitoring of the COVID-19 response in a manner that is constructive and ultimately helps to build better and stronger systems for future pandemic or emergency responses, if they do come.”

And Dr Kpundeh said the results of efforts aimed at fighting corruption should always benefit the Zambian people.

“The World Bank team has partnered with Transparency International Zambia and the Partnership for Transparency fund in monitoring of project expenditures to ensure that there is adequate engagement by citizens in the implementation of project activities. This innovative practice is being implemented in Zambia for the first time. I would like to congratulate TIZ for developing the ICT Initiative to monitor Covid expenditures. It is critical when these projects are supported by the bank to ensure that these resources are used for the purposes intended,” said Dr Kpundeh.

“Ultimately, we have an office here to support the people of Zambia. At the end of the day, all this finance project is for the people to realise the benefits of it. When you see things appearing in the newspaper that the World Bank has supported Zambia with $20 million against Covid, the question is how is this translating to benefit people? Ultimately this is the goal you want to see not just the donation. If it does not get to the people then we have not succeeded in our work.”

“TIZ does not have a police force and they cannot enforce anything so they need partnership with the ACC to do the investigations. This is where the collective action comes in where all players have to work together. The institutions have to be strengthened. You can flag something that has happened but if the other systems are weak then you do not get the results.”

Meanwhile, Dr Makupe said it was the responsibility of every well meaning Zambian to get vaccinated.

“We have been fighting the battle of Covid in the hospitals but this is a battle that has to be won in the community. The political leadership remains very strong. We have been shown across the world that vaccination is the way to go. We therefore urge our people in Zambia to take that important vaccine and win the battle against COVID-19 from the community and not the hospital. Currently, only 5 percent of the eligible population in the country is vaccinated against the targeted 70 percent. This is an issue of serious concern for us as a Ministry as we witness the first hand and devastating effects of the COVID-19 on health, lives and well-being. This is the responsibility of all well meaning Zambians to get vaccinated. This will also help in bracing the country for forth wave of the pandemic which is likely to hit in the final quarter of this year,” said Dr Makupe.