By Anthony Bwalya – UPND Member.
This is a call to all citizens loyal to the Republic of Zambia to stop, think and ask questions, of the non institutional, non legal platform of disbursing “empowerment” under the veil of the so-called Presidential Empowerment Fund Initiative (PEFI) – said to be sponsored by President Edgar Lungu.
Levy Patrick Mwanawasa (RIP) is remembered for his unrelenting crusade against politically motivated corruption by high ranking government officials.
FTJ (RIP) was one of his principal victims. The former President had set up a Presidential Slush Fund, similar to what President Lungu has done, which used to receive millions of US dollars from the Ministry of Finance, for the president to administer as he pleased – no questions asked. The result was a multimillion dollar trial involving 168 counts of corruption charges involving close to $50m.
What stunned the nation was not some “legitimate” payments paid to private security contractors from the London hosted ZANACO bank account (famously knowns as the ZAMTROP account) , but rather payments channelled to the former president’s friends, family and political collaborators – not to mention millions of dollars spent on shopping sprees.
For a long time, the ZAMTROP account was impossible to audit because of the special dispensation with which it was managed. Therefore, the corruption and plunder schemes were only uncovered after Levy Mwanawasa lifted the lid on it and allowed private auditors to look into the account.
Of course, at the time of the trial, Zambia’s debt was a mere $5.4bn and only 20% of our national revenue was servicing external debt.
The current Presidential Empowerment Fund Initiative by President Lungu will prove a lot more problematic for us, and for various reasons.
1. No one knows where the money comes from
2. No one can audit the scheme as long as the President whose name appears on the fund is in office
3. No one knows what bank accounts, if any, are attached to the fund.
All we keep seeing is the “fund” churning out “empowerment” in the form of cash, buses, projects and equipment; with known named “cooperatives” clear beneficiaries of the same.
Now, when the time for reckoning comes, all those who are actively involved in the handling and distribution of funds under the PEFI will have questions to answer in that regard.
Today, we see PF operatives being flown on military aircrafts transporting bags of cash under the PEFI for nationwide distribution.
Once the reign of this President is over, and once the reign of the Patriotic Front (PF) is over, and at a time when Zambia is losing around $2.5bn per year to corruption; we will need to look back at the PEFI and its core participants and ask the question that no one wants to ask right now:
Where does this money come from?