TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TI-Z) president Sampa Kalungu has described former DMMU National Coordinator Chanda Kabwe’s behaviour when he appeared before PAC as arrogant.
And ActionAid Country Director Nalucha Ziba says the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and its chairperson should take a fair share of the blame for condoning Kabwe’s uncalled-for conduct.
Kabwe appeared before PAC, Wednesday, where he threatened that he could “react” if members continued to “abuse” him, further saying he was ready to pay the price and be arrested if the committee felt he abused his authority while in office.
But in an interview, Kalungu said former public officials being asked to account for their conduct should exercise humility and decorum that showed that they understood the suffering of Zambians.
“We are of the view that former public officials who are being asked to account for their conduct in handling public resources when they were in power should exercise the humility and decorum that will show that they understand the suffering that the Zambian people have endured for so long when it comes to management of public resources. We need to appreciate that accepting to serve in public service entails agreeing with the norms that guide public service which includes prudent management of resources and accountability. Public service comprises a lot of procedures, disciplines and processes and that’s the contract you subject yourself to once you accept the job in public service,” he said.
Kalungu also advised oversight bodies not to relent in demanding accountability from those suspected of having conducted themselves inappropriately, even in the name of responding to emergencies.
“It is worrying that Mr Kabwe in his appearance yesterday sought to adopt an approach that bordered on arrogance and contempt for a process that is meant to give citizens an insight into how funds were mismanaged as part of the COVID response. TI-Z released a study around September last year that showed the existence of opportunities for COVID funds to be misused, and Mr Kabwe, then as DMMU National Coordinator, was quick to dismiss our findings, only for the Auditor General to release a report three weeks later that showed that COVID funds to the tune of K1.3 billion had been mismanaged. We therefore do not expect those who must answer questions on accountability of public resources to show contempt towards the process or portray themselves as some kind of victims,” said Kalungu.
“Where public resources were misused, people must be made to answer questions about their respective roles and where it is clear that anomalies were allowed without any proper justification, those responsible must be held accountable without any further delay. We therefore urge the PAC and other oversight bodies not to relent in demanding accountability from those suspected of having conducted themselves inappropriately even in the name of responding to emergencies. While we understand the demanding nature of emergencies, it does not warrant a blatant disregard of accountability principles, nor does it justify an unguarded response that allows for all manner of anomalies to occur. Zambians must get answers to the questions being asked about how public resources were managed, and former public officials pouring scorn on the process must not be allowed to derail the process.”
And Ziba said PAC and its chairperson should take a fair share of the blame for having condoned Kabwe’s uncalled-for conduct.
“Chanda Kabwe occupied a public office which was accessing public and donor funds intended for use in responding to disasters and emergencies. As National Coordinator, he was a custodian of public interests, and he is therefore accountable to the nation through the mechanisms and platforms laid down by the Constitution. Therefore, the arrogance and disrespect shown by Chanda Kabwe to the Parliamentary committee should be condemned in the strongest terms. Mr. Kabwe is not being denied the opportunity to defend himself, but this should be done with respect and in following the decorum of Parliament,” she said.
“Also, PAC and the Chair of the committee should take a fair share of the blame for having condoned the uncalled-for conduct of Mr. Kabwe. PAC should not allow for such unfortunate precedent. It is important that the Speaker through the Clerk of the National Assembly write to Chanda Kabwe to express her disgust at his arrogant and disrespectful conduct. This should also serve as a warning to former senior Government officials who may be called to appear before the committee.”
Ziba said the impunity among former public officials arose because of the long delay in handling possible cases of impropriety and corruption by the UPND government.
“It is important not to lose sight of the fact that the roles played while in office are of public interest and all who hold these positions are accountable to the people even when they leave office. Again, we would go on further to state that this impunity is arising because of the long delay in handling possible cases of impropriety and corruption by the UPND Government. The people who may have done wrong to this country have now found their voices and with impunity they want to claim their rights forgetting the many lives that may have been affected by their negligent conduct in office and the desire for illicit enrichment. Parliament has an important oversight role to play as outlined in the Constitution. The Public Accounts Committee is a key parliamentary body with a mandate to help Zambians. Understand how the public monies appropriated by Parliament through the national budget have been expended,” said Ziba.