Times of Zambia are reporting gross misdirection of funds at Lusaka City Council. The report alleges that around K42 billion was spent on personal emoluments and administrative costs leaving only about K17.7 billion on service delivery in the financial year ending 2009 :
In the two-year period between 2008 and December 2009, the council raised a total of K124 billion but only K27 billion was used in providing services while the rest was used for personal emoluments and administrative expenses. This represents 15 per cent on service provision of the total amount while 85 per cent was used for personal emoluments and administrative costs in the two-year period.The sources of the figures are allegedly from "preliminary financial reports on the Patriotic Front-run councils". As such we must treat these with healthy scepticism due to the fact that this is not not from a credible source like the Auditor General or Public Accounts Committee. I was particularly taken back by the "politicisation" embedded in the sourcing. That always raises alarm bells. That said, this is one to watch because it illustrates many problems. The first is that these are the same council officials handling CDF money, which continues to be subject to corruption allegations. Secondly, and more cardinal, is the point I have made in the past. The problem with corruption in Zambia is institutional - it is not the case of individual piety or party affiliation.
The council collected K14,278,819,000 from rates in 2008 and K14,055,171,000 in 2009 but the total income, including other services amounted to K64,400,503,000 in 2008 and
K59,647,502,000 in 2009. The transition into percentages for the two years shows that 44 per cent of the funds were spent on personal emoluments while administrative costs gobbled 34 per cent, leaving only 22 per cent for service provision.
Local Government and Housing Deputy Minister Moses Muteteka said a process had been started by a special team of experts to identify specific individuals who might have abused resources for onward reporting to the security wings.
When you fire one council official you will just replace them with another corrupt individual. There's no "dedicated fellow "out there. What we need is action on three things: First, implementation of some of the ideas mentioned under Refocusing the fight on corruption e.g. introduce stiffer penalties and improving detection of corruption (on this I bemoan the inadequacy of the recent Public Interest Disclosure Bill). Secondly, improving monitoring regimes, so that the probability of being caught is sufficiently high. Finally, encourage a higher pool of local government officers through open competition. The spectre of nepotism in our councils is well known.
In short, a more focused and structured debate is needed on how to tackle local government corruption instead of constant lamentation and name calling exhibited by some. Hopefully these issues will be addressed by the in-coming Local Government Commission. More discussion on the refocusing