Mr Lucky Mulusa, the Special Assistant to the President for Project Implementation and Monitoring, broke down in front of television cameras when he discovered that the newly established district of Ngabwe in Central Province had no office infrastructure. Mr. Mulusa was surprised that government officials were working under trees and sitting on logs of wood. He was applauded by government functionaries for suggesting that he would donate money intended to buy one of the two vehicles he is entitled to towards the construction of a government office block in Ngabwe.
I have always contended that Zambia remains poor because of failed leadership and a lack of prudence in managing our nation’s resources. There are several issues we can read through Mr Mulusa’s statement.
First, the establishment of new districts countrywide by the PF was a knee-jerk reaction designed to satisfy populist demands. There were no financial resources allocated for this exercise. Ordinarily, creation of a district is preceded by a feasibility study and then subjected to the Town and Country Planning regulations so that the town is properly established. Mr Mulusa is breaking down in front of cameras in Ngabwe when Milenge, which was created long ago, still has no electricity.
Secondly, we are surprised that Mr Mulusa does not know the extent of deprivation in Zambia. One does not need to go to Ngabwe on government expenditure to witness the poverty and squalor in Zambia. Our people in Lusaka just a short drive from where Mulusa’s office is, live in deplorable conditions. They do not have access to clean drinking water and sanitation.
The third issue is that Mr Mulusa is publicly stating that in the midst of widespread poverty, where 60% of the population lives on less than a dollar a day, senior government officials are entitled to two vehicles: one personal-to-holder and the other a utility car. A Land Cruiser GX which most senior government officials drive costs about K1,200,000 (1.2 billion Kwacha old currency); add to this maintenance cost and fuel. At his level, Mrs Mulusa gets 800 liters of fuel every month; that is K6,080 for Mr Mulusa alone. Mr Mulusa is right;. money saved from one of his GRZ vehicles would be enough to build an office block in Ngabwe. Probably when he visits Chawama, he will notice that the compound only has one clinic for over 160,000 people and will donate money meant for the other car towards the construction of a new clinic.
Fourth issue, Mr Mulusa is clearly a good person and means well. He is truly touched by lack of development in the country. What he does not have is the authority to decide how money allocated to buying vehicles for senior government officials can be diverted to altruistic activities. Mr Mulusa is giving us an insight of how this government operates. We are not surprised that the Auditor General’s Report always documents misappropriation and misapplication of government funds.
A good leadership will prioritise activities and plan accordingly. Economic development comes after certain fundamentals have been put in place. You just don’t wake up and declare the establishment of districts and construction of roads and hope development will somehow occur.
Here are a few suggestions of how the UPND will operate when in Government from 2016:-
- We shall have a lean government to avoid wastage. Imagine for each GX Land Cruiser government buys at K1 200 000, about 600 boreholes would be sunk to provide clean water to thousands of our people. This amount pays 50 teachers on K5 000 a month for a year. Senior government officials in the UPND government will be expected to have their own vehicles. A fleet of pool vehicles to be used on official duties will be available and managed by the Ministry of Works and Supply. These ideas are not out of this world, these are things already being done in RICH countries.
- Planning – All government projects and programs will only be undertaken after thorough deliberation with all stakeholders and securing of funding. UPND will not run a populist government.
- Systems and institutions – Under the UPND, development will not depend on donations and the goodwill of senior government officials. Development will be systematic and will address and respond to the needs of the people. Institutions of governance will be strengthened. We cannot continue with impunity that which the Auditor General’s office has documented over the years. This is why our model will be bottom-up and not top-down like where Mulusa’s go to districts and prescribe what needs to be done.
Governing a country requires a skills set that guarantees real economic growth. That is what we bring to the table. Government is too complicated to be run on an ad hoc basis. There is so much we can achieve without having to borrow money. All we need to do is get our priorities right. Prioritisation is clearly not happening in PF.