INFORMATION and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya says she is pleased that the government has functioning systems which managed to expose irregularities at the Ministry of Health, among other institutions.
SILIYA: “I think it’s a big folly, Mr Speaker, that people should say the country has come to a standstill because of one highlighted issue, whether it’s at the Ministry of Health or anywhere. Make no mistake, I am not saying that that should be encouraged, one of the things I am pleased about is that our system is actually working and we are able to quickly identify these problems, these cogs in the system because if the system does not work, that would even be worse.”
We keep asking the same question to those who are saying the rampant cases of corruption are an indication that the government systems are working. Which systems are they talking about? What mechanisms has the Patriotic Front government put in place to spot and stop corruption? These are lies, lies laced with embarrassment. This government must be ashamed for trying to take credit for the work and efforts of whistleblowers who do their work under constant threat.
Let’s take the Ministry of Health for example and review the most famous corruption scandal – the US$17 million Health Centre Kits supply contract. This contract was irregularly awarded because the government systems were compromised. The same systems and government structures which were created to detect, prevent and report corruption are the same structures that were used by criminal elements to defraud the people of Zambia and to put their lives in danger.
The job of the Zambia Medicines and Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) is to make sure that entities that want to trade, deal, manufacture or supply health related products, such as drugs and test kits, are qualified and properly certified to deal in that business. It is illegal for them to give an operating license to an entity that does not meet the requirements of the law to deal in drugs, but this is exactly what ZAMRA did. Nobody in government questioned ZAMRA for their deeds, they all endorsed the action and defended it to the hilt.
The job of the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) is to ensure that procurement procedures are followed when government ministries are buying products or services. In the Honeybee scandal, the Ministry of Health irregularly cancelled an existing supply contract with a reputable supplier called Missionpharma. ZPPA warned the ministry against this but they did not listen. ZPPA went further to oppose the awarding of the supply contract to Honeybee because the company did not have capacity, experience and a license for the job, but the powers that be made sure that ZPPA’s opinion was thrown and went further to fire those who offered that objection.
The job of the Attorney General is to scrutinize contracts which the government enters into with private entities and to make sure that the State does not get exposed to risks or liabilities that can lead to huge losses of public funds. In this Honeybee scandal, the learned Attorney General was in the forefront defending it. He told everyone who cared to listen that there was nothing wrong with awarding a US$17 million contract to a sole trader. Mr Likando Kalaluka State Counsel had all the necessary information needed to prevent this scandal from happening, to protect public funds from being lost into private pockets of crooked individuals, but he chose to allow it to pass. Instead of reprimanding the Attorney General, those in government sang in unison defending his actions.
The job of the Anti-Corruption Commission is to investigate corruption, arrest perpetrators and prosecute them. In the Honeybee scandals, the Anti-Corruption Commission was fed with all the information necessary to stop this crime, arrest the people behind it and save the government from losing money. To this day, the Honeybee file is still gathering dust at ACC. Those charged with the responsibility of detecting, preventing and prosecuting corruption cases have folded their arms waiting for Jesus to return. They have made zero progress on this matter because the people involved in the scandal are too powerful. These are facts.
So what is Honourable Dora Siliya talking about? Which government systems or mechanisms is she referring to which are working to the extent of impressing her? All these institutions we have mentioned above failed to detect a wrong in this transaction. This government fought tooth and nail to keep the scandal under cover. They wrote press statements denouncing our reports as fake news, claiming their irregularities were nothing but typing errors. We are at loss appreciating what the Chief Government Spokesperson is talking about.
The Ministry of Health under former Minister Chitalu Chilufya was exposed by efforts of patriotic whistleblowers. People who refused to join hands with the corrupt; people who truly cared for the wellbeing of the people of Zambia. No one in this PF government has the right to take credit for the exposé that has brought the Ministry of Health where it is today. This was the work of the people of Zambia who continued talking until the walls of Jericho were brought down. There was no government system that assisted, to claim that there was, is an act of deception.
So, our advice to the minister is that; the best thing to do when you have nothing to say on the topic is to keep quiet, like President Edgar Lungu did when he went to deliver his national values speech to Parliament. We believe that our President knew he had nothing sensible or convincing to talk about on the topic of corruption, and so he decided to talk about social media.