Saturday, February 20, 2010

Corruption won’t be addressed through mere political pronouncements – TIZ

Corruption won’t be addressed through mere political pronouncements – TIZ
By Moses Kuwema
Sat 20 Feb. 2010, 03:00 CAT

TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) chapter president Reuben Lifuka has observed that government leaders have become conditioned to the sad state of affairs depicted in the Auditor General's report and are not moved to do anything meaningful.

In a press statement, Lifuka stated that the financial irregularities highlighted in the 2008 Auditor General's report were a stark reminder of the rather pitiful efforts that the government was making to deal with graft, especially in the public sector.

Lifuka stated that TIZ found the wastefulness and recklessness exhibited by some public officers entrusted with the stewardship of public resources as reported in the audit report to be criminal.

“The 2008 Auditor General's report makes very sad reading for a developing country like Zambia which is heavily dependant on Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) and Foreign Direct Investments for its economic development,” Lifuka stated.

“The revelations are not only shocking but a demonstration of a serious lack of sensitivity on the part of some public officers to plight of the majority poor and vulnerable people.”

Lufuka stated that the report cast doubts on the suitability of some controlling officers who seemingly had failed to deal with the malaise and general anarchy in their respective ministries or spending agencies.

“What we fail to reconcile is the fact that some controlling officers or permanent secretaries whose performance is dismal, continue in office or are simply moved to another ministry by the appointing authority. This does not send the right signals that government is anxious to rid the public sector of corruption,” Lifuka stated.

He stated that the revelations in the report should serve as impetus for President Rupiah Banda and his administration to get serious with the fight against corruption.

“It is disturbing to note that tax arrears have increased by 21 per cent and what makes it worse is that some of the main defaulters are government ministries and agencies.

For instance, the Office of the President in Southern Province, by October 2009 had not remitted tax for payment of monthly salaries. Clearly, if government itself is failing to remit tax, what gives it the moral right to call upon the private sector and others to remit their tax on time?” Lifuka wondered.

Lifuka urged the Minister of Finance, secretary to the treasury as well as the Zambia Revenue Authority to put in place measures to ensure that all taxes that are due from defaulters especially public sector institutions, are paid as soon as possible.

He stated that the trend of public sector workers giving themselves 'interest free loans' through ordinary or special imprest must come to an end.

“It is annoying to note that some national projects have failed to take off due to lack of resources and yet some government officials at various levels are illegally holding on to public money by not retiring in good time,” he said.

“It is a shame that even if these public sector workers pay back, this money will be interest free. We demand that all those that have unretired imprest should immediately pay back and we want to urge controlling officers to follow strictly the financial regulations especially Regulation No 91 which requires that 'no officer shall be issued with subsequent imprest while the earlier one has not been retired,” stated Lifuka.

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