United Party for National Development (UPND) has expressed disappointment and concern at the decision by President Michael Sata to transfer the Road Development Agency (RDA) from the Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communication to State House.
UPND leader Hakainde Hichielama says the move will just facilitate more corruption as it revolves around one person.
Hichilema says the move is also meant to protect corrupt practices that will ensue as RDA will now be classified.
‘As a party that believes in sustainable national development, we strongly believe that concentrating powers and responsibilities in the hands of the president is a recipe for bad governance and should not be allowed,’ said Hichilema.
Hichilema wondered why Sata is centralizing power to himself.
‘We are of the considered view that if President Michael Sata was genuinely interested in strengthening the national capacity to effectively respond to the challenges of improving road networks and other related infrastructure, the best way would have been to strengthen capacity of government agencies instead of centralizing such powers and responsibilities to himself.
‘The President has used an argument of lack of accountability and transparency at RDA in the procurement for roads as the reason for his unilateral action. As UPND, we agree with the well-founded widespread fears by various stakeholders, that the fundamental principles of accountability and transparency in the procurement of road works are even at a more risk of being seriously compromised at State House.’
Hicheilema said there is genuine fear that most road tenders will be given to those perceived to be politically correct and have access to the President at the expense of deserving contractors who may not have access to State House.
He argued that: ‘this is likely to breed corruption, nepotism and favouritism because the tender process is likely to be at the mercy of presidential decrees.’
Hichilema said It is further difficult to imagine how an institution that will be controlled from the Office of the President will be genuinely audited and be questioned by investigative wings in case of suspicions of corruption or fraud, since most of the activities under that office are normally highly classified.
‘As UPND, we demand that the responsibilities and abilities of government service delivery agencies, such as RDA be strengthened and later decentralized to Local Authorities with the necessary capacity building support as part of the devolution process. Good Governance demands reposing of resources, powers and responsibilities in institutions that are closer to the people and can be held accountable easily.
‘When UPND comes into power after winning the 2016elections,we are going to run a government of the people, for the people and by the people and we will, among other measures, devolve the procurement, rehabilitation and construction of roads and other infrastructure development to capacitated Local Authorities as a matter of good governance for sustainable socio-economic development.
We however do not want to wait until 2016 and see damage being done to the road sector which is the back bone of sustainable economic development,’ said Hichilema.
Hichilema explained that: ‘It is for this reason that we are appealing to PF not to continue paying lip service to the decentralization process but to demonstrate that they are willing to devolve powers and resources to the lower organs of government in order to strengthen the local government system which is closer to the people.
‘As UPND, we are making this appeal in the best interest of the nation. We sincerely believe that the measure taken by President Sata is not sustainable because it is built and centered around one person, the President, which is an exact opposite of facilitating sustainable development through decentralisation.
‘There is need to build credible and durable institutions and systems of good governance instead of building individual empires that may produce undesirable dictatorial and corrupt practices.’