By Francis Maingalia
Increasing corruption is wreaking havoc on the Zambian economy, as the payment of bribes has reached the level of 78 percent in 2014, according to research by Transparency International.
The 2014 Bribery Payers Index, compiled by the Anti-Corruption Commission with research by Transparency International, showed that demands for bribes increased by 6.7 percent in 2014 compared with 4.7 percent in 2012. The index showed that the level of bribery payment increased to 78.3 percent last year compared with 48.3 percent in 2012. The index also showed that the prevalence of bribery worsened in 2014, with 57.1 percent of respondents surveyed paying bribes to public officials for a service compared with 44.6 percent in 2012.
The spread of corruption has become a major threat to Zambian economic growth, African Parliamentary Network against Corruption (APANAC) Zambia Chapter president Cornelius Mweetwa said in an interview with Anadolu Agency on Monday.
“Widespread corruption has caused huge economic losses to the country, and has not only severely curtailed investment, but has also hurt growth,” Mweetwa said.
Funds from tax revenue and foreign aid end up in private pockets, he added.
“As a result, not only are public investment budgets dropping but also the cost of living and doing business is rising and development has slowed down,” Mweetwa pointed out.
Investors have little desire to invest in a country where corruption addes to the cost of doing business, he explained.
Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) Chapter President Lee Habasonda agreed that rising corruption has harmed the Zambian economy.
He explained that corruption accounted for more than 10 percent of government spending, with kickbacks demanded for government contracts and bribes paid for other services.
“This is despite the policy changes to improve the fight against corruption which have been made recently,” Habasonda said.
Habasonda noted that businesses which could not pay bribes were failing, as their bids for key contracts were ignored by procurement officials.
“One of the key things we must address if we want to build thriving and sustainable businesses is to confront the issue of procurement corruption head on,” Habasonda said.
Corruption also makes it difficult to set up a business in Zambia, Private Sector Development Association (PSDA) President Yusuf Dodia told Anadolu Agency in an interview on Monday.
“It’s not easy to set up a business in Zambia, and when you eventually do, at times you find yourself parting with almost 30 percent of your capital to get your business going. It is this kind of atmosphere that discourages foreign investors. As far as I am concerned, investors will not go to a country where they’ll spend all their capital bribing people,” Dodia said.
Zambia has on several occasions been indicated by Transparency International as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Such reports send the wrong signals to investors, Dodia said.
The Zambian government has made the fight against corruption part of its political agenda. It has set up a National Program on Governance and strengthened specialized anti-graft units. The National Anti-Corruption Policy has set guidelines on how to deal with corrupt practices in the country. Similarly, the Zambian government has also mandated the establishment of Integrity and Ethics Committees in all government institutions.
But Habasonda pointed out that the measures have so far had little effect.