Wednesday, June 02, 2010
By Ernest Chanda
Wed 02 June 2010, 04:00 CAT
SOUTHERN Africa Centre for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) executive director Lee Habasonda has observed that the Swedish government’s firing of Sida director general over Zambia’s corruption record is a judgment on the country’s political will to fight the vice.
Commenting on Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) director general Anders Nordstrom’s dismissal last week for failure to supervise Swedish money meant for development cooperation, Habasonda yesterday called for political will from the government in the fight against corruption.
“I think there is a serious lack of political will from our government. If the people who help us with money can dismiss their officials over our corrupt practices why can’t our government also act by dealing with the culprits? It does not make sense to see people who have embezzled donor money walk freely when the people who gave us that money are being dismissed for failure to supervise the same money,” Habasonda said. “For example, we have a scenario at the Ministry of Health where the former permanent secretary Dr Simon Miti was suspended in April last year in connection with revelations of abuse of donor funds at the ministry and the case has since gone under. Of course our law enforcement agencies have issued the same statement that they are investigating, but will these investigations ever end? And will Dr Miti remain suspended forever? What about the taxpayer’s money he is still being paid? How does the Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Joshua Kanganja explain that to the public? I think it’s time we had a serious commitment from government on the fight against corruption. Paying lip service on the vice will not take us anywhere. We cannot be abusing other people’s funds and just sit when they are punishing their people for our crimes. We have to be serious about our governance issues.”
Habasonda said the government was leaving too many questions unanswered on matters of corruption.
“The people tasked to fight corruption in this country do not seem to be serious. Again I will say the Zambian public deserves to know what has become of Dr Miti. I think Dr Kanganja should take further steps because the man cannot just be suspended endlessly. In other countries such matters are dealt with expeditiously to avoid unnecessary expenditures. Our casual approach on issues of corruption is painting a bad picture on our governance record,” said Habasonda.
Last week, the Swedish government dismissed Nordstrom over Zambia's corruption record.
According to Swedish Wire, the Swedish government was not happy with the agency's control over money spent on development cooperation.
The government cited Zambia where Sida money meant for development was embezzled.
During an early meeting on Thursday, the government decided to fire the director-general of Sweden’s highly criticised bilateral aid organisation Sida.
In a press release, the government announced that, “Anders Nordström, who has been Sida’s director general since 2008, will leave the agency immediately and that there will be significant changes in the organisation.”
This is the latest development in the conflict between the centre-right coalition government and the aid agency.
According to the publication, the relationship between Sida’s board and the Minister for Development Assistance, Gunilla Carlsson, has been strained for quite some time and several of the agency’s officials have openly complained that the minister’s requirements are unreasonable and impossible to implement.
Carlsson has repeatedly slammed Sida for being inefficient and for failing to make sure that the aid money is spent where it is needed.
In a newly published debate article on Swedish website Newsmill, Carlsson mentions Sida’s operations in Zambia where it has been proven that Swedish aid, meant to support the health sector in the country, had instead been used to fund corruption.
Carlsson writes that a significant amount of money was embezzled during several years without being properly investigated by the agency.
In addition, despite Sweden being one of the most generous donors, giving slightly more than one per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as aid to developing countries, the agency is accused of being wasteful and for repeatedly exceeding their budget.
Nordström told Swedish Radio news, shortly after the announcement, that he did not feel he had done anything wrong during his time as general director and that the agency had taken many steps to improve efficiency and control of the funds.
Former director general for Save the Children International, Charlotte Petri Gornitzka will take Nordström’s place until a permanent director-general is appointed.