The claims in the story were very concerning. They are the reason the Civil Society Organisations represented here today, have come together to express our joint sense of concern at what is coming across as a critical abuse of public resources by the current administration.
The News Diggers dossier which included expenditure paid for from a government account for luxury items such as a boat cruise and shopping expeditions, as well as a highly bloated delegation list that included individuals with no identifiable government business on the trips, joins a long list of matters in the public sphere that require urgent explanation by government. These matters suggest that there is at best, very poor prioritisation in the use of public resources by government, and at worst, runaway corruption that treats public money with extreme recklessness.
In this regard, we refer to the following issues:
- The purchase of 42 fire trucks for 42 million US dollars by the Ministry of Local Government
- The purchase of 50 ambulances by the Ministry of Health at the cost of 288,000 US dollars each
- The intention to sell NRDC to AVIC international without consultation and against public opinion
- The inflated costing of infrastructure projects such as the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway and the new Kenneth Kaunda International Airport terminal, in Lusaka
- The astronomical size of, as well as the inclusion in, presidential delegations of individuals with no identifiable duties on international trips
- The revelation by the Financial Intelligence Centre of astronomical amounts in illicit financial transactions in a nine-month period of 2017
- The poor quality of projects carried out at great costs, such as the roads in Lusaka that have developed major potholes within a short period of their rehabilitation
- The digital migration process that has been reported to be many times more expensive than any other on the continent
- The non-payment of money accrued by the 96 ministers when they stayed in office illegally as ruled by the Constitutional court.
- The Topstar deal
- The general and routine overpricing of goods procured by the government as shown in the Auditor General’s report
- Repeated use of service providers named in Auditor General’s reports as having mismanaged public resources
- The weak internal control systems in government that result in shocking amounts lost as again reported in the Auditor General’s report
The Civil society is of the view that the constant drip of scandals cannot be ignored as it suggests systemic accountability failure in government.
It requires an in-depth investigation of specific issues but more importantly an overhaul of public resource management systems.
We, therefore, demand that each of the matters listed above, be investigated and the public provided with in-depth explanations of the extent to which claims in the public sphere are true.
We would like to emphasise here that it is not the duty of the public to provide evidence to the state when matters of accountability are raised. Rather, it is the duty of duty-bearers to provide full information on questions raised and to institute disciplinary and criminal procedures when required.
On behalf of the Zambian people, we the organisations gathered here, therefore, demand that:
- Full information on the extent to which the News Diggers dossier is true is shared with the public
- All people that flouted financial regulations in any of the cases above be disciplined and resources recovered
- Going forward, clear guidelines of who can be included on a presidential delegation at tax-payer cost are set out
- The stage at which the investigation into the 42For42 scandal by the Anti-Corruption Commission is made public
- All processes towards the sale of NRDC be halted until full information on the transaction is shared with the public. On this, it is the view of the civil society that the NRDC should NOT be sold.
- A report on investigation and prosecution of individuals named in the Auditor General’s reports be published
- The “blacklisting” of any service providers named in the Auditor General’s report to prevent them from accessing any more contracts
The CSOs gathered here especially alert the public to the fact that the country is in a state of financial emergency. It is no secret that Zambia is facing a critical budget deficit and a debt burden that determines that there are very limited resources available for critical services such as health, education and water.
Civil society is very worried that the limited resources available for service delivery are not reaching the poor. In short, the basic needs of the poor are not being prioritised in the use of available resources and therefore are not translating into very achievable improved lives and quality of services for all Zambians.
An example of this is the very preventable recent outbreak of cholera which shone the spotlight on a dysfunctional local government system. The cholera outbreak also revealed the routine loss of public resources at markets to ruling party cadres. With millions of Kwacha spent on the outbreak, and lives of vendors disrupted, the disease has not been contained. Recent figures show that there are upwards of 20 new cases being admitted per day. Further, market places for the thousands of households that depend on vending have not been created as promised thus creating a major crisis of hunger and crime.
At a time such as this, it is unacceptable that even a ngwee of public money would be misused. We, therefore, call on Zambians to rise and demand accountability, starting from the local level and going up to the highest office in the land. We encourage citizens to be protective of government money because it is our money and it determines the quality of services that citizens, especially the very poor, can access. We call on citizens to not accept the current situation in which scandal after scandal is met by silence from the President and government because they know that storms never last in Zambia. We urge citizens to understand the government’s constitutional responsibility to act on all matters of accountability that are raised by the public.
To summarise our reason for being here:
We, the civil society organisations gathered here, call on all Zambians to rise and ensure that your money improves your lives!
Alliance for Community Action (ACA)
Civil Society Initiative for Constitutional Agenda (CiSCA)
Women for Change