Friday, July 16, 2010

Ronnie’s opinion on TIZ corruption survey is jaundiced - Lifuka

Ronnie’s opinion on TIZ corruption survey is jaundiced - Lifuka
By George Chellah
Thu 15 July 2010, 15:40 CAT

TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) president Reuben Lifuka yesterday described Lt. Gen Ronnie Shikapwasha’s opinion of his organization as jaundiced.

Commenting on Lt. Gen Shikapwasha’s reaction to the results of the TIZ 2009 Zambia Bribe Payers Index that what they were saying was a mere perception which should not be taken seriously, Lifuka said Lt. Gen Shikapwasha’s response is not surprising.

“And if anything, it epitomizes the patently impulsive responses that have come to define the work of a Government Spokesperson in Zambia. Hon. Shikapwasha without even reading the executive summary of the report, has still found it fit to comment and make remarks that are not only off the mark but express a lack of appreciation of social surveys like the one conducted by TIZ. In our considered view, it is not helpful for us to engage the Hon. Minister on his comments and the conclusions he makes of our work because he assumes a very simplistic approach to a survey which was scientifically designed and implemented,” Lifuka said.

“We would have found it intellectually stimulating to engage the Hon Minister on substantive issues related to the methodology employed, our interpretation of the data obtained and conclusions reached, but as usual, such an opportunity is missed because the Hon. Minister sees immeasurable value in expressing his jaundiced opinion of TIZ and not the issue at hand. Needless to say, Hon. Shikapwasha in his criticism of TIZ seems to doubt the survey outcomes and dilutes their significance by stating that these are simply perception.

He stated that the survey provided an empirical measurement of bribery incidences and due care was taken to ensure the veracity of the data obtained.

He further stated that scientific parameters of conducting social surveys of such a nature were followed and the Survey Team comprised highly experienced Researchers who applied a robust system in analyzing and interpreting the data obtained and there was no cause to doubt final report.

“We stand ready to discuss our detailed methodology and data analysis for the Bribe Payers Index with Hon.Shikapwasha if this is something within his range of skills and competencies,” Lifuka said.

He reminded Lt Gen Shikapwasha that while he was negative in his reaction, the survey report contains a number of positive elements, which he could have emphasized in his statement.

“For instance, we do allude to the positive development that the majority of the respondents no longer experience bribery situations at Ministry of Lands. In our view, it shows that there is something that the Ministry of Lands is doing that should be emulated by other Government agencies. Unless if Minister Shikapwasha doubts this finding as well and he would like us to give him concrete evidence that the public no longer experience high levels of bribery in the Ministry of Lands,” Lifuka said.

“Further, we raise an important point of concern for all in the report – namely that only 5 per cent of those had encountered demands for bribes- actually went ahead and reported these cases to the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zambia Police Service - the rest did not see value in this and ended up paying the bribes,” he added.

According to Lifuka, in 2009, Transparency International Zambia, launched the Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which showed that Zambia had made a marginal improvement in the score from 2.8 to 3.0 out of possible 10.

“This was attributed to a number of policy measures and political will exhibited particularly during the late Levy Mwanawasa’s administration but including some steps taken by the current administration of Rupiah Banda,” Lifuka explained.

“Government’s reaction was surprisingly positive to the CPI – probably because of the marginal improvements and His Honour- Vice President George Kunda and his Deputy Minister for Justice – Hon Todd Chilembo basked in the glory of this development and expressed satisfaction for the scientific approach of TI(Z) in assessing the progress made in fighting corruption in Zambia.”

He said Lt. Gen Shikapwasha’s comment was an interesting turn-around, which raises a question on how serious government takes its own positions on different governance matters.

“It is instructive to note that government recently concluded a State of Governance survey under the auspices of the Governance Secretariat which utilizes similar social survey methodology and approach- and it will be interesting to see how Hon. Shikapwasha will react to the results of this survey. The challenge for Government leaders is not to fight the results of surveys of this nature but to seek further understanding of the issues being raised and develop strategies to fight the scourge on all fronts,” Lifuka said.

He cautioned that it was not the eloquence of the political rhetoric that would change this sad spectacle of corruption in Zambia but pragmatic and well designed responses to this problem.

“Hon. Shikapwasha has invested too much time trying to prove that his Government is doing something about corruption but we wish to remind him that good actions should speak for themselves and the people will judge this government on that basis.

“We challenge the Hon. Minister to also take time and look at the statistics from the Anti-Corruption Commission and analyse the number of bribery cases brought against public officers particularly those from Zambia Police Service.

“The point of debate should not be about who has said Zambia Police Service is considered to be corrupt- rather the logical debate should focus on what can be done about this situation where the general public have to give out bribes to public officers.”

He said it was this state of denial – about the rampant nature of corruption in the public sector which has contributed to pedestrian approach by government in responding to key reports like the Auditor General’s report.

“Does it come as a surprise that Government doubts the authenticity of the reports of its own Auditor General? That says a lot about the absence of political will to fight corruption by this Government. We want to remind Hon. Shikapwasha that fighting corruption requires a pragmatic approach and Government needs to listen to all views – positive and negative. Government should not only seek to hear praises but criticism as well,” Lifuka said.

“Government is free to equally develop its own corruption measurement mechanism to help it understand the extent of the problem of corruption. What will not help the cause is for Government to simply talk about success without a system of monitoring the effectiveness of their actions. This report from TIZ should provide an opportunity for Government to assess its own efforts in fighting corruption. Such reports give valuable feedback which Government should not dismiss out of hand.”

On Wednesday, Lt. Gen Shikapwasha challenged TIZ to provide evidence that police officers were in the habit of getting bribes from the public.
He said what TIZ was saying was a mere perception which should not be taken seriously by the people.

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