Nundwe’s warning must be extended to Lungu and his Cabinet Ministers

Copperbelt Province Permanent Secretary Bright Nundwe says the theft of government resources in the region is escalating at an alarming level; noting that some workers were building expensive houses, yet their salaries were very small.

He recalled that when he was in charge of Muchinga, the province never had any audit queries during the three years that he served; but Copperbelt Province had proved to be notorious for theft of government resources.

In order to arrest the problem, Mr Nundwe gathered accountants, whom he thinks are the major culprits, from various departments and gave them a stern warning at a skills building workshop in Ndola.

“Every time, Copperbelt appears before the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee because of the evils that you commit wilfully, the PS sweats because of sins that you commit as accountants. We have a section of civil servants on the Copperbelt who have an agenda to steal wilfully with impunity. We have chaps building yet his salary is very low. So, next time if you steal, I will take you to PAC so that we sweat together. You don’t know how we sweat from the head to toes. We sweat everywhere,” lamented Mr Nundwe.

“Money is never enough, the more you have the more you want. But no matter how much you steal from government, we will bury you with a boxer and a shirt. So, account for government resources prudently, otherwise you will go and rot in jail. They will screw you in jail and you will find they have chewed your wife for nothing. Stop stealing!”

We like Mr Nundwe’s counsel to the government workers, but why has he been appearing before the Public Accounts Committee to sweat every year without rooting out the culprits? Why?

It seems the Permanent Secretary was very certain that he was addressing thieves employed by government as accountants, yet there is no action taken against any one of them. The truth is that theft by these public servants is a little more complicated and deep-rooted than it is seen on the surface.

It is not always that accountants steal without any accomplice at the top of the government department or organization hierarchy. Usually, the bigger the amount stolen, the higher the accomplice involved. So, we would like to recommend to Mr Nundwe that he buys a mirror for his office and look into it every day when he reports for work and before leaving.

When accountants are able to steal big without being caught, that only goes to show that there is lack of internal controls to monitor expenditure and accountability. If accountants who steal blood volumes of money are not arrested, it means Mr Nundwe’s office is weak or participating.

The Anti-Corruption Commission and Drug Enforcement Commission are there to arrest those who steal. The media is here to expose those that are abusing their offices; why can’t Mr Nundwe assume the role of whistle-blower if indeed he is concerned about the alarming levels of theft in his province?

What we are trying to say is that, if an accountant is stealing, but never fired, let alone arrested, it means Mr Nundwe is tolerating theft and is an accomplice. If Copperbelt Province is a perpetual culprit in the Auditor General’s report, yet Mr Nundwe himself is not being fired, it means his appointing authority (in this case President Edgar Lungu) is tolerating the habit of stealing. In fact, this cannot be disputed.

Since the Patriotic Front came into power, the misappropriation of funds, as shown by the Office of the Auditor General, has only been getting worse, year after year. In the latest report, we saw the Auditor General go a step further to name some culprits, but we have not heard of any arrests made. That means our government is not serious about good governance and accountability.

We have not seen any desperate moves from State House to fight corruption and theft of public resources in government. What we have heard from President Lungu instead is “ubomba mwibala alya mwibala, but mwilalya nembuto kumo”, encouraging theft among ruling party and government workers.

What we deduce from such statements is that State House staff, starting from the Head of State himself, is a participant of abuse of office and theft by public servant. That is why they simply condemn theft, like the Copperbelt Permanent Secretary was doing, but they do nothing about it.

In our view, Mr Nundwe’s warning to thieves must not be restricted to accountants on the Copperbelt. His message must be extended to his own office, all ministries and State House at the top.

So, therefore, dear President Lungu and your Cabinet, Mr Nundwe has a timely warning for you and your Cabinet:

“Money is never enough, the more you have the more you want. But no matter how much you steal from government, we will bury you with a boxer and a shirt. So, account for government resources prudently, otherwise you will go and rot in jail. They will screw you in jail and you will find they have chewed your wife for nothing. Stop stealing!”

         

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