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Thursday, 4 June 2009

TIZ Press Release : Fight Against Corruption

Transparency International Zambia Press Release : 

Transparency International Zambia welcomes the timely action by the Republican President Rupiah Banda to direct Secretary to the Cabinet, Dr. Joshua Kanganja and Law Enforcement Agencies to effectively collaborate within the legal provisions and get to the root cause of alleged corrupt practices in the government. This action is long overdue and we sincerely hope that government will use this as an opportunity to develop clear strategies of eradicating corruption in the public sector. For a number of years now, successive governments have declared a zero-tolerance to corruption but what has been missing are pragmatic and systematic steps to get to the root causes of this scourge. It is evident that a lot of time and resources have been spent grappling with the symptoms of corruption and not the real causes.

Transparency International Zambia would equally want to propose that other actions should be taken to complement what the Secretary to the Cabinet has been directed to do. For instance, we want to urge President Banda to lead this clean up process of the public sector by taking action against Ministers and senior government officials who are alleged to have been involved in misappropriation of public funds. Some of these officers include Permanent Secretaries who have simply been moved from one Ministry to another. We would like to see a situation where such Officers are suspended or go on leave pending investigations. This will facilitate unfettered investigations by law enforcement agencies as well as indicate the President’s strong commitment to the anti-corruption crusade.

Transparency International Zambia would like to urge President Banda not to limit the forensic investigations to the Ministry of Health alone. We would like to see this extended even to Ministries like Home Affairs, Education, Works and Supply, Roads Development Agency, Mines and Minerals Development and Lands among others. In fact, we would like to propose that Government comes up with a plan to investigate as many of the government ministries and agencies – funds allowing – so as to establish a baseline on what is currently happening in these ministries. In the absence of whistle blower protection legislation, we would like to urge Government to put in place measures to allow for ‘genuine’ whistleblowers to come forward and give details on corrupt activities in the public sector; without fear of victimization. Probably, Government should consider instituting a Public Inquiry of some kind. We want to believe that a number of people within and outside government are aware of the corrupt activities being perpetrated by some public officers and this information can be useful to Government in getting to the bottom of the corruption that has rocked the public sector.

Other actions that we deem fit include the urgent preparation of a National Plan of Action to eradicate corruption. Such a plan of action should allow for a systematic approach in fighting corruption in Zambia. It is a matter of concern that in the last 15 years – Zambia has not developed a Comprehensive Plan of Action despite the numerous political statements on fighting corruption. Government should take leadership on this matter and ensure that stakeholders include the general public are aware of the magnitude of the problem of corruption in this country and that collective actions are sought to deal with the scourge. We want to encourage Government to engage various stakeholders in discussing the different options available which could strengthen our fight against corruption. Government should use the process of developing an Implementation Plan for the National Anti-Corruption Policy as an opportunity to elaborate a Comprehensive Multi-Year Plan of Action (CMAP) Against Corruption.

Lastly, it is our contention that Government should equally move with haste on a number of policy, legal and institutional reforms. We want to express our concern that proposed amendments to the Anti-Corruption Commission Act have remained unattended to for a long time now. Transparency International Zambia – agrees that the Anti-Corruption Commission should be the leading institution in the fight against corruption but a lot still needs to be done before the Commission attains this status. This includes appropriate amendments to the principal law. We urge Government to use the July 2009 sitting of Parliament to ensure that the proposed amendments are tabled and enacted after further reviews of the draft bill are done now. It is also necessary that Government consults widely on the ACC Amendment Bill and various legal reforms necessary to enhance the fight against corruption. It will not help Government to sneak into Parliament an Amendment bill that has not been widely discussed and commented on by stakeholders and the general public. The fight against corruption cannot be won by Government or the ACC alone – but through collective efforts involving as many Zambians as possible.

Once again, we commend President Rupiah Banda and his government for making this pronouncement but we want to warn that this should not simply be seen as making the right political noises in the light of growing concerns about corruption in the public sector. President Banda and his government should sincerely commit themselves in ridding the Zambian society
of corruption.

We want to assure government and the general public that TIZ will closely follow the outcomes of the forensic investigations in the various government departments and we will continue to lobby for stiffer punishment for all those found wanting. It is time that a strong signal is sent to public service officers – that Corruption does not pay.

RUEBEN LIFUKA
TIZ CHAPTER PRESIDENT

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