By Dr Given Mutinta
The revelation from the Auditor-General’s Report for 2012 that in most areas, loss of public funds mushroomed to shocking levels under President Michael Sata’s regime makes a sad reading.
The report shows that under Sata’s regime, the unvouched expenses colossally increased to K553, 142, 715, 946 in 2012 compared to K77, 014, 932, 341 in 2011 under former president Rupiya Banda.
Besides, non-accountability of public funds through “no submission of expenditure returns” soared to K107, 765, 375, 773 in 2012 from K27, 083, 333, 334 in 2011.
As if not enough, loss of funds through “over payment” increased to K206, 913, 870 in 2012 from K6, 000, 000 in 2011.
Whereas unaccounted for stores burgeoned to K43 billion in 2012 from K22 billion in 2011.
Despite this, Sata’s regime is singing its own songs of praise for lessening the misappropriation of funds to K463, 631, 579 in 2012 from K1, 060, 362, 947 in 2011
This diminution in the misappropriation of funds is insignificant bearing in mind that Sata’s regime enormously abused funds under the other systems underlined above.
This huge abuse of public funds is unacceptable and heads must roll? These funds would have made a difference in the lives of 64 per cent of all Zambians living below the poverty line.
Is the Auditor-General’s Report not enough evidence that Sata’s regime is a kleptocracy?
For the sake of clarity, if my Greek still serves me better, the word Kleptocracy comes from two Greek words; kleptēs, meaning thief, and kratos, meaning rule. When pieced together, the term literally means “the rule of thieves.”
The huge abuse of public funds revealed in the Auditor General’s report goes to show that the current regime flourishes by plundering the country’s public funds. It is a government of thieves, by thieves, and for thieves.
The Auditor General’s report denotes that Sata’s regime is corrupt and incompetent to be in charge of public funds. There is totally no pellucidity and transparency of any kind in his regime.
His regime thumps all previous regimes in having wicked leaders and systems that are steadily yoking the poor masses. This is the same regime that has ruthlessly severed subsidies on petroleum products and maize, and is cripplingly taxing people, and funds raised are channelled to absurd activities; benefiting the top dogs in the regime and their cronies.
The large-scale embezzlement of public funds aimed for development stated in the Auditor General’s report should make us all think about the future of this country.
Does this country really want to continue with Sata’s kleptocratic regime after 2016?
We will have no one but ourselves to blame when this kleptocratic regime thriving in its plundering extravaganza dissipates the national coffers.
At the rate national resources are being plundered, one wonders what type of a country we will have two years from now?
Ransacking of resources will continue until Sata earnestly demands integrity from his cronies, and himself act in a plundering free manner. If not, public funds will continue winding up in the hands of a few looters, with no attention given to national development.
One of the contributing factors to the fast growing kleptocracy is Sata’s tyrannical approach to leadership. His imperious leadership is characterised by an absolute and unquestioning obedience to his authority.
This is what has killed professionalism in this regime. Technocrats are afraid of being fired if they questioned Sata or his cronies’ illegal and unconstitutional activities.
For instance, how many technocrats serving in government challenged Sata’s decision to transfer the Road Development Agency (RDA) to State House? None! Why? Fear that he would exercise his brutal means or fire them as he seems to be allergic to the voice of reason, and that is how he is controlling the country.
Therefore, people submit to his misrule more out of fear than out of respect.
His unjust and unethical means to dominate people enables his kleptocratic regime to plunder resources without being questioned.
In 2011, Sata promised to end the abuse of public funds saying when he comes into power every ngwee would matter.
It is not enough for Sata to fight against the massive abuse of public funds by the word of month alone. The crusade against the abuse of public funds will only be effective when he fights against this vice in words and actions.
It is heart-breaking to have a leader who makes promises he has no intention of keeping on a daily basis.
Sata can tell the nation that he is allergic to corruption a million times, but until his conduct matches with his actions, informed citizens will never believe anything that comes from his mouth.
The fight against the huge abuse of public funds cannot be expressed in mere words; it necessitates actions to speak for it. Unfortunately, many people now know that Sata is a dissembler who says things just to appease people. Zambians have learnt about his true character by looking at his deeds towards public funds. As an experienced politician, one would think that he knows better that actions should meet verbal commitments, not conflict them.
It is disappointing that he cannot constantly scrutinise his actions so that they coincide with the promises he made. Words are so easy to throw around, but it takes a moral leader to follow through with actions that back them up.
One of Sata’s flaws facilitating the creation of a kleptocracy is the appointing of his close friends and relatives as his subordinates. As a result, all the corrupt and unethical practices that take place are perceived as a family affair, “kabili ni bayama abateka!”
This kleptocratic leadership is quickly giving rise to a regional ruling class that is without restraint accessing and abusing public funds as it wishes.
Given that this regional ruling class is in possession of all the power, the purloining of public funds goes unnoticed or ignored as a regional family affair.
Let us face the ugly head of kleptocracy. The abuse of public funds is now taking place on a large scale, as government authorities cannot differentiate between public and personal funds. This is the calibre of leaders in Sata’s regime, bald-faced looters!
If this kleptocratic regime is not voted out of power in 2016, pillaging and looting in this regime will worsen.
Very few people thought that under Sata’s leadership kleptocratics such as the so-called cartel would allegedly hold him hostage and make their way through all the levels of the socio-political system of the government, and have become its part and parcel.
Sadly, the poor masses are slowly becoming accustomed to Sata’s immoral system. Already, some are not able to see something wrong with kleptocracy even though they are suffering.
Sata’s kleptocratic regime is exemplary of what Lord Acton an English historian, politician, and writer said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This is, undeniably, appropriate in Sata’s regime. In all conscience, how can a person justify the huge abuse of public funds shown in the Auditor General’s report? It seems many people in the current regime consider it one of their basic rights to plunder national resources in order to improve their personal lives.
It is indisputable that kleptocracy has found fertile grounds in Sata’s regime. This is due to the corrupt authoritarian approach to leadership such that some people exercise complete power and control over the country’s funds as if it is theirs
It is due to weak leadership that personal transactions that people in power carry out on public funds go unquestioned. There is literally nobody to question the embezzlement of state funds. The treasury of the country is now treated as a personal account of kleptocrats.
Worse still, most of the public funds being plundered are not benefiting the local people as they are clandestinely conveyed to secret, personal bank accounts in other countries. This is the leisureliest way these thieves are amassing “illegal” money. This is aggravated by the fact that legislations of other countries do not allow other countries to access information about the monetary reserves in their banks.
It is the first time in the history of this country where “strong people” like the cartel are also given the “right” to openly use some part of the public funds and certain powers for their personal gains.
It is only in a kleptocracy where such a practice is legal. As a result, corruption and misconducts are widespread at all levels from State House to the last civil servant in the line.
The Auditor General’s report is an iceberg of the massive plundering taking place thus authenticating, for example, numerous reports of looting and illegal trading of the country’s natural resources, such as land and minerals.
Kleptocracy makes it easy today for people to be killed and displaced from their homes so that the land that they have been occupying can be sold at higher profits. The money earned from such activities goes into kleptocrats’ personal accounts.
No matter how docile we are, we should not allow a Mobutu Sese Seko kleptocracy incarnate in Zambia. Mobutu brought the most sordid systematic diversion of Zaire’s (the Democratic Republic of the Congo) resources for his private gains. He is reported to have been transmitting more than $100 million in his personal bank accounts every year. His direct cronies also robbed the country to a great extent, so much so that the country’s civil servants often went unpaid for months.
The determinants of the presence of kleptocracy are already visible in our country. The economic gulf between the political authorities and common people is widening.
One can clearly see the poverty and hardships suffered by the poor masses in relation to the fulsome and extravagant lifestyles of the sitting authorities.
The Auditor General’s report should not only end up in State House and gather dust. Sata should come up with strategies of fighting against the abuse of public funds, or his regime be fired in 2016.
It is high time we said “no” to systematic plundering of the country’s resources.