Wednesday, December 19, 2007
By Lambwe Kachali
Wednesday December 19, 2007 [03:00]
IT is difficult to convince people that there is economic growth in the country because it has not trickled down to the ordinary Zambian, finance minister Ng’andu Magande has said. And outgoing Norwegian Ambassador to Zambia Terje Vigtel said there was need to put honest and right people in the ministries to ensure proper distribution of national resources.
During a farewell family party for Ambassador Vigtel organised by former Task Force chairperson Mark Chona on Sunday, Magande said he sometimes felt ashamed to face Zambians because of poverty.
Magande attributed this development to failure by some ministers to implement and monitor their budget allocations. He said when he was first appointed finance minister, the Danish government wanted to give US $10 million to the Ministry of Agriculture for the treatment of livestock diseases in Western Province but they were hesitant to release the money because they were not sure if there were officials in the province who could utilise the money for its intended purpose.
Magande said although he was excited at the intention for financial help from the Danish government, he was afraid to sign for the money because he had not consulted the then agriculture minister Mundia Sikatana. He said after he discussed with Sikatana – who was also excited - the Danish government released the US $10 million to the Ministry of Agriculture for the treatment of livestock diseases in Western Province.
However, Magande said there was no one to carryout the treatment project but he recommended to Sikatana that retired veterinary officers should be used as opposed to the serving civil servants.
Magande said officials from the Ministry of Agriculture still went back to him and reported that they were unable to find retired veterinary officials. He said he promised to help in this area since he knew a Zambian veterinary doctor who had worked in Botswana for close to ten years and was now back at home.
“But surprisingly, this doctor came to my office two months later and said the people at the Ministry of Agriculture had refused to work with retired veterinary doctors, that they would like to use the serving civil servants,” Magande said. “And this gentleman said since ‘my country has refused to utilise my expertise, I am leaving for the UK to join my wife who is a resident there.’
That is how this gentleman left for the UK and since then, no one knows how that US $10 million dollars was utilised. But what is true is that the livestock diseases in Western Province have almost doubled now and I am ashamed to face that Danish ambassador who assisted us with the US $10 million.”
Magande said it would be difficult for the ordinary Zambian to feel the impact of the economic growth if the monies in various ministries were not used properly. He said although the country had reached a single digit inflation rate, people on the ground were still poor.
Magande said money in Zambia was not a problem but how it was being utilised. He said there was a problem on the distribution of money in various ministries to income-generating projects. He said the function of his ministry was to ensure that all the monies allocated to ministries in the national budget were released.
Magande said that it was incumbent upon respective ministers to monitor and ensure that money was properly distributed to designated projects.
He also said the Ministry of Education had a project to construct 25 High Schools across the country this year.
“Today (Sunday) is the 16th December, which means that we are remaining with 14 days before the end of the financial year…you go and ask the Minister of Education how many high schools his ministry has built as per allocation,” Magande said.
“For instance, for each pupil to have a single desk, it will have cost the ministry K90 billion but in this year’s budget the ministry was allocated about K900 billion and this money has already been released by my ministry. Also in the Ministry of Agriculture, for every agricultural officer to have a bicycle, they would need 2,000 bicycles which can cost the ministry about K8 billion. But the ministry was allocated about K1 trillion in this year’s budget.”
Magande said even if the government increased the tax base in the mining sector as proposed by some stakeholders, it would still be difficult to improve people’s lives unless the financial monitoring system was improved.
And Ambassador Vigtel said currently the government ministries were not functioning well. He said there was too much money laundering within the system.
“We have been giving this country a lot of money, but what happens to that money we don’t know. This is a matter of the media to expose what is happening in these ministries.
It is also a matter of the politicians to protest if the national resources do not reach the ordinary people in their respective constituencies. So you have a huge problem in this country,” Ambassador Vigtel said.
He said Zambia had the potential to grow economically and that there was need to strengthen the anti-corruption crusade.
“A lot of money is going out of the country illegally. Money that is allocated to alleviate poverty does not reach the intended people and poverty levels are increasing at a high rate. For you to fight all this poverty, you really need right administrators in these high officers to administer your resources.
Currently there is too much corruption, meaning you don’t have the right people in place. Also the law enforcement should be strengthened because as it is now, it is very easy to get involved in illegal practices and the police do not prosecute most of these people. You should also strengthen the law if corruption can be tackled effectively,” said Ambassador Vigtel.