Esther Lungu’s abuse of public funds must be condemned, halted

We could not believe it when we picked a story last week that the First Lady of Zambia madam Esther Lungu will tomorrow lead a 25-member delegation to the United States of America where they are all going to receive four fire trucks from donors. As if that was not outrageous enough, we were told that this 25-members delegation would be in that country for 15 days, from tomorrow until January 31.

Two weeks in a foreign country just to receive fire trucks on behalf of government. And who is on this entourage? According to the State House approved list, a bedroom attendant, cook, cleaner, waiter, about seven police officers, four journalists, three secretaries, two fire brigade officers, a communications officer and accountant will be flying with the first lady to provide her with the much desired prestigious comfort on the journey.

This First Lady’s squad has even donned a name, calling itself “the Committee to receive four fire trucks for the Republic of Zambia” Really?.

1. Amos Malupenga – Local Government Permanent Secretary
2. Florence Chawelwa – Senior Private Secretary
3. Agnes Imasiku – Communications officer
4. Wellington Mulambo – Chief fire officer at Ndola City Council
5. Robert Banda – Deputy chief fire officer at Lusaka City
6. Mwansa Mumba – Reporter at Zambia Daily Mail
7. Victor Mwila – Reporter at ZANIS
8. Doreen Nakapizye – Cameraperson at ZANIS
9. Thomas Nsama – Photographer at State House
10. Sandra Ngushi – Staff officer
11. Dominic Kabamba – Staff officer
12. Chimuka Chuulu – Staff officer
13. Musonda Sindazi – Staff officer
14. Lewis Mtonga – Staff officer
15. Christianity Kondolo – Staff officer
16. Christine Nakazwe – Staff officer
17. Cecilia Mwanza – Medical personnel
18. Musonda Chitunga – Cook
19. Chipo Chica – Waiter
20. Charity Chirwa – Bedroom Attendant
21. Clara Chomba – Cleaner
22. Mando Phiri – Accountant
23. Dorothy Musonda Chibwe – Personal Assistant
24. Mary Kafita Kaonde – Secretary

We looked at this delegation list carefully, and a few things were not making sense. We asked those who have been First Ladys before and those who have worked in the office of the First Lady before, and they attest to the fact that the composition of this list did not make sense. This is the kind of delegation that a president moves with when travelling out of the country, and that is when there are no austerity measures in place.

We are told that this donation was solicited by the First Lady, and as such, she needed to personally go and accept the donation from the well wishers of her foundation. Why does the First Lady need seven police officers, three secretaries, a cook, cleaner, bedroom attendant and waiter for her private undertakings?

This country has already had enough debates about this office. There is no office of the First Lady in the Zambian Constitution, and any funding allocated to the wife of the President is nothing more than abuse of public resources. If Mr Lungu was a single man, there was not going to be an election for people to vote for the First Lady, this office simply doesn’t exist.

It is already unfortunate enough that it gets money from the Treasury, when the occupant of that office must be sourcing for private financing to run the so-called foundation. It is worse that this abuse of public resources can be happening in broad daylight. If those who are in power today want an inclusion of this office, let them propose that amendment to the Constitution and allow Tax payers to have a say.

Why should the Zambian taxpayers sponsor 25 people to America for more than two weeks to simply go and give a vote of thanks to the donors over four fire trucks? This is very unfair to the people of Zambia. It is an unacceptable expenditure and it must be condemned in the strongest terms. It must be halted. This is the same government that has been preaching austerity measures. They announced to the country that Cabinet Office was no longer going to approve any non-mandatory foreign trips that fall outside the UN General Assembly, the AU summit, SADC, COMESA etc. What has changed?

Our readers are on point to ask whether the First Lady and her 25-member Committee were going to lift the four fire trucks on their heads to bring them home, because quite frankly, we can’t understand the importance of every member in this huge delegation.

Just to put things into perspective, a return ticket to Los Angeles is within the range of K10, 000. That means Zambians will be paying over K250, 000 to sponsor this fire tender delegation; and that’s assuming that they would all be flying economy, but the truth is that the First Lady herself, her ADC, the Permanent Secretary and probably two three more people will be flying first class. A first class return ticket to Loss Angeles, at today’s rate, fetches as much as K35,000 per adult depending on the Airline. Does our country have this kind of money to waste?

The logic that is being ignored here is very simple. The money that will be spent on air tickets for this delegation is enough to buy one fire engine, the money that will be spent on accommodation and food is enough to buy another new fire engine and the money that they will share as allowances among themselves is also enough to purchase a third fire engine. This expenditure may sound normal to some people, but to us, it sounds as stupid as an entire family jumping on a Mazhandu Bus from Lusaka to go and collect K1, 000 rentals from a tenant in Livingstone.

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