Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kabinga Pande is urging officers in his ministry to report any officers found abusing resources meant for national development :
“I want everyone working at this ministry to be a whistle blower because we cannot afford to lose billions of Kwacha to selfish individuals at the expense of developing the economy....As a ministry which deals with foreign issues, it is imperative not to be found in such scandals, I want it to be the ministry which others can look up to as an example where officers are honest in their dealings....".This comes as no surprise because Mr Pande presides over the most corrupt ministry in the nation, if one is to go by the latest report of the Auditor General. We were promised recently by the Permanent Secretary that prosecutions would be forth coming. I am not holding my breath because part of the problem with the Foreign Ministry is that it is crowded by political cadres who hold allegiance to the ruling party and not the Zambian people.
But may be Mr Pande is genuinely floundering for advice. So here is my free advice. Whistle blowing is a "public good" whose benefits go beyond the individual. In econ-speak the social benefits outweigh the private benefits. But more importantly, no one is going to be a whistle blower if the private costs outweigh the private benefits (there are psychological benefits and of course, reduced corruption benefits all Zambian citizens, including employees at the Ministry). So what we need is the change in incentives so that employees find it attractive or less costly to blow the wistle. We don't want to give the employees at the Ministry cash rewards for whistle blowing because that defeats the overall objective of keeping Ministry costs to the minimum. What we need is something fairly simple : effective legal protection against whistle blowers which protects the employee-employer relationship. This has the effect of substantially reducing personal costs. Fortunately for Mr Pande there are many examples of this legislation where he could glean details, including our SADC friends in South Africa.
Of course once the legislation is in place, we also need to improve the efficiency of our court system and ensure that special corruption courts are set up that deals with cases more quickly and brings corrupt people to justice. I fear currently we lose twice : corruption and the substantial costs of prosecutions. Now for that Mr Pande will require help from the Justice Minister Mr Kunda.