VICE-PRESIDENT Inonge Wina says people should not be shocked when some members of parliament donate huge sums of money to their constituents because they had been running businesses way before joining politics.

Speaking in Parliament last Friday during the Vice-President’s Question Time, Madam Wina said: “This Parliament is composed of many members who come from varied backgrounds. Some of them come from the business sector, some NGOs, some come from traditional systems. So, those members of parliament you see donating sums of money or other resources to their constituencies, it means they are in business. They are running businesses, they were running businesses even before they became MPs and others are still running those businesses,” said Vice-President Wina.

We have said it before that there is nothing wrong with making donations. The problem is the source of those donations, and if the Vice-President says all these ministers donating huge sums of money to their constituents own successful businesses, that would be a valid explanation, but it has to be subjected to scrutiny. We say this because there is no minister, who can admit stealing public funds, they all have to claim that they have businesses.

With the economic state of affairs in Zambia, where businesses are folding, but those businesses owned by ministers are booming, we have to ask questions. This is money that even the government Department of Social Security is not in a position to spend on the vulnerable recipients of Social Cash Transfer. Things are just too tough for the government Treasury, as explained by the failure to disburse funds to critical State institutions, including missions abroad where our public servants are going for months without pay.

There is a good reason for one to believe that these ministers and MPs are donating proceeds of crime, unless each one of them points us to the business that they are doing, which generates this money. Let them show us receipts of the taxes they have paid to ZRA on those highly profitable businesses they do.

This is why we have been calling for lifestyle audits. A lifestyle audit simply goes to answer the question: “How are you affording the lifestyle that you lead, considering the income that you have? How are you managing to have nine luxury cars at your house or to build 49 flats or to donate half a million to your constituency every few months? How come all your children are enrolled at international schools, but your known income is less than half of one child’s tuition fee?”

The chief proponent of the lifestyle audit, Musa Mwenye, State Counsel, has been asking three important questions: (a) what did you have before being appointed into public office? (b) what do you have now as you are serving in government or after you have left government? (c) how much tax have you paid on the income that you claim to have generated through a legitimate business? This is the immediate past Attorney General and we are inclined to believe that he knows what he is talking about and there is something that he has seen, which is making him unhappy with the way people are getting rich!

The rich in government are saying they have successful legitimate businesses, but they have never paid VAT; they have never paid Pay As You Earn (PAYE); they never filed any tax returns for those businesses. So, which businesses are they running? That is the question that Madam Wina must answer because, if you never paid any of the above taxes, then you must be arrested for evading tax, and tax evasion is a criminal offence.

Whatever business that these ministers and MPs are involved in, the law demands that if that business was paying you K50 million a month, there must be a corresponding record at the Zambia Revenue Authority, indicating the income tax you paid. So, apart from that business proving that it was making all that money, you also have to prove that you earned your salary and you did not evade tax.

All these people who are stealing from the government have chosen very dangerous paths for their lives. The enjoyment they are experiencing now will be short-lived. When there is change of government, these people will find Zambia too small to live in. This country has seen smooth criminals before. Criminals who have looted the Treasury in stealth mode, but justice caught up with them before they could finish enjoying the proceeds of their criminal activities.