THE Patriotic Front says revelations from the Corruption Perception Index that corruption has worsened is an indication that the PF government has put in place mechanisms that are able to effectively detect it in the public sector. According to the PF media director Sunday Chanda, corruption has not worsened under President Edgar Lungu but the government has improved it’s detection mechanism. He was reacting to the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index released last week, which showed that the country had dropped by a point from 34 in 2019 to 33 in 2020, an indication that corruption had become endemic.

“The corruption index is very welcome and maybe there is also another way looking at these corruption indexes that we have been receiving from different stakeholders. The PF has put in place mechanisms and these mechanisms are able to detect corruption early enough. It is not that there is more corruption now than before, it is because there are systems detecting corruption now than before. In the past, it would take a year, two years for the Auditor General for example to raise a flag. This time, the Auditor General can raise a flag almost immediately. So the financial systems and our quest to ensure there is transparency in the application of public resources is above par. There is no regime in this country that has put in early warning systems detecting corruption at a faster rate than we have done. So we are able to detect corruption earlier and that is the point that our colleagues are missing,” Chanda said.

Firstly, we wonder if this is the reasoning of Mr Sunday Chanda as an individual or this is the reasoning of the entire PF secretariat, considering that he is the man who speaks for the party as Media Director. Secondly, we wonder if this is genuine lack of understanding of the Corruption Perception Index or this is a deliberate ploy by the PF to mislead the public and avoid facing the reality that corruption has become endemic in Zambia.

Whatever the case, this is a rather embarrassing reaction from the PF secretariat because it shows us that there is a serious luck of understanding of the problem that exists. The first step to solving a problem is understanding it. Admitting or rather accepting that it exists is one thing, but knowing how that problem came about is another. You cannot solve a problem that you don’t understand.

Reading this reaction from the Patriotic Front about Zambia’s score on the Corruption Perception Index raises a number of concerns. The PF cannot succeed to fight corruption if they don’t understand the roles that oversight institutions play. The PF media director is talking about the Auditor General’s report being released sooner than before, as one of the corruption detection mechanisms that government has put in place.

No sir! The role of the Auditor General is to audit all government ministries, provinces and agencies in order to assure the public that public resources are being utilised for the intended purpose and that there is value for money. That has got nothing to do with the Corruption Perception Index. In fact, the Auditor General does not investigate or report corruption, the Office only points to where those who investigate must look.

Our friends in PF need to understand that the major drop in Corruption Perception Index scores comes from the surveys done by Varieties of Democracy which shows a rise in public sector corruption, executive corruption, legislative and judicial corruption. So what the PF is saying through the media director has no empirical evidence to counter the Corruption Perception Index score for Zambia.

The Corruption Perception Index itself explains that the document is developed on the basis of independent sources of research. It includes analyses of international business analysts as well as country experts who have intimate knowledge of the operations of a particular country. The Corruption Perception Index is not based on information from sources like the Auditor General or other governmental entities like the Financial Intelligence Center.

For Zambia’s score in 2020, there were nine sources of information for the generation of the rating we were given, and those sources are also not a secret:

1. Africa Development Bank Policy and Institutional Assessment.
2. Bertelsmann Foundation Transformation Index
3. Economist Intelligence Country Ratings
4. Global Insight Country Risk Ratings
5. The PRS International Country Risk Guide
6. Varieties of Democracy Project
7. World Bank Country Policy and Institutional Assessment
8. World Economic Forum EOS
9. World Justice Project Rule of Law Index

Mr Chanda and his bosses who are pretending to be interested in fighting corruption may also ask: Why the drop in score for Zambia in 2020? The answer is also provided by the same documents.

The Varieties of Democracy project indicated a 6-point reduction due to a rise in public sector corruption, executive corruption, legislative corruption and judicial corruption while The World Justice Project indicated a 1-point reduction after assessing the rule of law. It also goes further to state that Zambia, however, recorded a 1-point improvement on the PRS Group international political risk assessment which considers corruption within the political system on issues such as excessive patronage and nepotism because there was a minimal crackdown on political party patronage and nepotism in 2020.

So we don’t understand what the PF is talking about and we wonder if they understand themselves. The Patriotic Front must be serious about fighting corruption. The solution to ending corruption cannot be finding believable justifications for its escalation. You cannot say, there is more corruption now because we have mechanisms of detecting it.

Even assuming that this was the case, the question that really matters is, how many of those cases are being prosecuted? If you say corruption is now being detected faster than anywhere else in the world, how does that compare to the number of convictions? How many corruption cases has the National Prosecutions Authority recorded as convictions, and of those how many are high profile?

It is important to ask when we do not comprehend an issue so that we do not mislead people and ourselves. It is also not very fashionable for those who read a lot, especially those who flaunt catalogues of huge volume literature on social media to mislead the nation about information contained in small documents such as the Corruption Perception Index.