Dr Simon Miti is Secretary to the Cabinet and has also remained President Edgar Lungu’s Principal Private Secretary at State House. These are two very senior government positions, and from a governance point of view, giving these two positions to one person dilutes efficiency. We were thinking that a week after the President promoted Dr Miti, a replacement was going to be made at State House, but this has not happened. Why?

From what we know, the position of Secretary to the Cabinet is the senior most in the civil service and the position of Principal Private Secretary is at the level of Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet. Who is supervising Dr Miti in his State House position? The answer is, he is supervising himself. Now we have a problem with that.

Dr Miti is supposed to be supervising the whole civil service, taking permanent secretaries or controlling officers to task for implementation of government policy to ensure a smooth running of the system. We don’t understand how Dr Miti is able to supervise the civil service and also prioritise State House. You can’t serve two masters at the same time; one is bound to suffer. And from what we see, it’s the civil service that is bound to suffer here.

The civil service needs total commitment and the role of Secretary to the Cabinet is huge. It’s a very big responsibility. If President Lungu wanted Dr Miti to continue working as his Principal Private Secretary, why didn’t he let someone else take charge at Cabinet Office? Is he telling us that Zambia is short of qualified people who can be Secretary to the Cabinet? We don’t think so.

A problem has been created now. When there are urgent matters, people in ministries send letters to Cabinet Office and they will be told that ‘this man is not here, he is found at State House’. When they take letters to State House, the security there will also tell them that ‘there is no Secretary to the Cabinet here, take them to Cabinet Office’. With such confusion, it’s a given that there is going to be inefficiency in the running of the public service.

From an efficiency and operational point of view, the civil service is bound to suffer because of this confusion. The civil service is the engine of government and there must be seriousness in the leadership at the office of the Secretary to the Cabinet. If Dr Miti is busy with the President’s programme at State House, let a replacement be made.

This is a fundamental issue. It may look small to others but we know that if a Secretary to the Cabinet is an absentee landlord, controlling officers who are craft are having a field day. There is no one watching over them. It is no wonder the so called austerity measures are not working because those who are supposed to implement and monitor are busy in competing offices. How can you get rid of ghost workers in the civil service when you, as Secretary to Cabinet, are a ghost worker in your own office?

What we are challenging in this confusion at Cabinet Office is not unprecedented. When late president Levy Mwanawasa appointed late George Kunda as Minister of Justice and Attorney General, there was public outcry because this was going to create conflict of interest in many ways. People said no to having an Attorney General who doubles as a minister and supervises himself.

And this brings us to the elephant in the room. Which salary is Dr Miti drawing? Is he getting paid as Principal Private Secretary, Secretary to Cabinet or both? If he is drawing two salaries, that is wrong; it is a prosecutable illegality that has been authorized by the Head of State. In our view, if our oversight institutions are working, this is a matter that the Auditor General must flag.

We are asking the Secretary to the Cabinet, if he is a man of integrity, to face the President and request that he is removed from State House so that he can give the civil service direction. We insist that if Dr Miti is drawing two salaries, it is an illegality that must be addressed with the urgency it deserves. We cannot have a top most civil servant embroiled in such scandal.

And President Lungu must explain why he has refused to let go of his Principal Private Secretary. What is so special about him? What is it that only he can do and not a new appointee in that office? This needs to be explained. In the absence of an explanation, we will be left to speculate that maybe, there are sensitive deals that the President had assigned Dr Miti to take care of and he doesn’t want to risk any other person being involved.