Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) is disappointed with the manner in which the Patriotic Front (PF) government is fighting corruption in the country.
Today, Zambia is commemorating the World Anti-Corruption Day.
But in the past week, the PF government, President Michael Sata and Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba have been undermining the efforts of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Initially, Kabimba – the PF General Secretary – appeared for interrogation at the ACC and bussed cadres to hear him being interviewed to which the ACC refused then turned him back.
Later, President Sata directed the ACC not to be embarrassing his ministers in public, a statement that has irked civil society and some of PF’s trusted sympathizers.
Reviewing the government performance in the fight against corruption since it assumed power, TIZ executive director Goodwell Lungu said there is a sharp contradiction between the pronouncements made by President Sata and his action.
“The PF government’s one year in office has established a sense of political will from the head of state in the fight against corruption which has unfortunately fallen short of the required tangible responsive and corresponding action.
“The PF government will lose the people’s confidence if it spends the next year dealing with the baggage of the past and not on creating hope and opportunities for the future for the people of this country,” Lungu said.
Lungu said government should be consultative and that the cabinet should recognize that in a democracy, the views of the people matter to avoid assuming the know-it-all attitude.
He said his organization is concerned that the fight against corruption has not been translated into appropriate, visible and tangible action by the public service and law enforcement agencies that seem to be going on a business as- usual approach.
He said although they credited government with the re-introduction of the Abuse of Office Clause in the Anti-Corruption Act, the exhibited political will and commitment has not been marched with the much-needed comprehensive action plans.
“TIZ noted during the year that President Sata stated that he was allergic to corruption but his allergy was sharply contradicted by his own attempt to appoint among others Mr. Xavier Chungu the former intelligence chief who is facing serious allegations of corruption before the courts of law and has even been convicted of a criminal offence,” he noted.
Lungu further observed that the PF government’s decision to establish Commissions of Inquiries to investigate alleged misconduct and malpractices against the previous regime has turned out to be a waste of tax payers’ money.
He said since these Commissions were concluded and their reports submitted, there has been lack of progress and action on the numerous recommendations.
He was concerned that government has not acted with the same speed and zeal to recommendations of Commissions of Inquiry such as the ZRA Commission of Inquiry, the Oil Procurement Commission of Inquiry and the NAPSA Land Commission of inquiry.
“It is TIZ’s assessment, so far, that these Commissions were more of a waste of tax payer’s money unless the PF government demonstrates timely, visible and tangible action on its recommendations.”
Lungu also observed that the PF government promised the Zambian people to be given a people driven Constitution within 90 days of its assuming office.
He said to-date, it is now way beyond the said 90 days, and this promise has already fallen far short although the Constitutional Technical Committee has produced a good draft Constitution. “We are however worried as TIZ that no clear road map has been provided and committed to by the current government. On this note, we feel that President Sata missed a great opportunity during the 2012 official opening of Parliament speech to guarantee a time frame when the referendum will be held. He instead opted to remain silent on this important issue. We recommend that the government should commit itself to having a referendum and a people driven constitution before the end of 2013 and provide clear budgets for such in the 2013 budgets.”
On the Auditor General’s reports, Lungu is worried that not even a single public statement has been issued by any of the law enforcement agencies on what action has been taken on the massive misappropriation of public funds reported.
He said this creates a serious and worrying sign that things have not changed in this area. Lungu further said public procurements under the PF government have continued to be opaque instead of transparent.
He said the PF government’s handling of procurement processes does not seem any different with past regimes which were influenced by partisan political interests.
He said there has been lack of full disclosures on how the decisions have been made in public procurements to attract public confidence.
Lungu also expressed concern at government’s delay in launching and enacting the Access to Information Bill as it is an important tool that can help Zambians access information and hold the public service and leadership accountable.
He warned that if government fails to enact the Bill by January 2013 as promised, TIZ will launch a vicious campaign of vigorous condemnation.
Lungu urged the PF government to comply with strict adherence to the approved national budget and that the rate at which ministries were being created in the first one year and the unjustified appointments of so many deputy ministers was worrying.
“We want to see stability and continuity– government has to build on what was working well in the previous regime,” said Lungu.