President Edgar Lungu says he is grateful to the British government for its decision to resume funding to Zambia’s health sector, explaining that the move will help the country attain its intended health coverage for all citizens. The President said this at State House when he received credentials from the new British High Commissioner to Zambia Nicholas Kerrison Woolley.
“Your Excellency, my government values the close ties between Zambia and the United Kingdom, a reflection of our longstanding relations. Let me take this opportunity to express my government’s profound gratitude to the British government’s decision, to resume funding to Zambia’s health sector in the wake of financial reforms that the Zambian government has put in place. This will indeed help Zambia attain its intended universal health coverage for all,” said President Lungu.
To start with, it must be made very clear to everyone that the resumption of British aid that President Lungu was celebrating last week is strictly to the health sector and not the Social Cash Transfer that we all know about. Secondly, it must be known that this news is not new, as it was announced by former British Envoy Fergus Cochrane-Dyet in February this year. It is not a development that has been brought by the new envoy. British aid under the Department of International Development (DFID) which was meant for the poorest of the poor Zambians remains frozen because the UK government is not yet satisfied with the reforms that government says it has put in place to prevent further embezzlement. At least, that is the last communicated official position.
So it might appear that President Lungu was using an old development to paint a picture that the Zambian government has reformed and Britain has forgiven all its sins. This is not entirely true. We are sure even the British envoy was wondering what new development our President was referring to.
The fact remains that the thieves in this government have not repented. In fact, the biggest ones have not yet been caught. They are enjoying each other’s protection. When you look at the theft of Social Cash Transfer money, several government officials were fired but only one (who is not even involved in procurement) is being prosecuted. Is this reform? No! This is a stunt meant to fool donors that something is being done.
It is good that Britain resumed aid to the health sector in Zambia, but we are concerned that there is less talk about what led to this aid being frozen in the first place. This is not the first time that donors suspended aid to the Ministry of Health. Memories are still too fresh to forget the case of Henry Kapoko and others, which led to the Swedish government freezing aid to the sector.
When aid is frozen, usually it is not the politicians who suffer; it is the end beneficiaries who pay the price. Politicians don’t feel the pinch. We are talking about HIV/AIDS patients who have no access to life sustaining drugs, mothers who have no access to antenatal services, babies that die of malaria, the underprivileged who can’t afford clean drinking water and die from cholera and other related diseases. So as President Lungu thanks Britain for resuming aid, he must at the same time tell himself, his ministers and civil servants to stop stealing from donors and citizens.
Among other complaints, donors are not happy that the central government receives this aid because it exposes funds to abuse and misappropriation. What they want is for the government to allow donors to provide funding directly to government agencies such as Medical Stores Limited. That way, it would be easy to monitor implementation and accountability of resources.
We want to hear the President make clear pronouncements on this matter. Why is government opposed to this idea? In our view, this is because those with long fingers at the top of government who have access to the coffers don’t want to be left outside the opportunity to loot. When they are caught, they point fingers at the junior officers in various departments and they even give directives to arrest low-ranking staff, so that they portray a picture that the government leadership detests theft. This is what we saw at Medical Stores.
That is why we are demanding that findings of the forensic audit on the abuse of public resources and donor aid must be made public so that the country can know who was responsible for the embezzlement of funds. It is not enough to produce a forensic audit and only make it available to the donors while keeping it hush-hush to the Zambian taxpayers. Allow us to see the paper trail so that we can see who stole, who allowed the theft and who benefitted from the loot.
Welcome to Zambia High Commissioner Woolley, you are now in a Christian Nation, where Christianity means abuse of office, theft by servant, political violence, corruption, breakdown of rule of law, dictatorship and more money for the rich – fake promises for the poor.