Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dissolve Cabinet early, TIZ urges Rupiah

Dissolve Cabinet early, TIZ urges Rupiah
By George Chellah
Wed 29 Dec. 2010, 04:01 CAT

REUBEN Lifuka says President Rupiah Banda must dissolve cabinet at the earliest opportunity next year to compel ministers to use their own resources in the 2011 campaigns.

Giving his reflections on 2010, Lifuka, who is also Transparency International Zambia president urged the ruling party not to use public resources for their political party campaigns.

He said TIZ was aware that in the 2008 elections, there were schemes where vehicles with private registration, from government agencies and parastatals, were mobilised and used in political campaigns.

“This should not be condoned, and we ask public servants working in these government agencies to make use of the Public Interest Disclosure (protection of whistleblowers) Act and make sure that such schemes are not perpetrated at all. Already we have noticed that deputy ministers have been roped into entourages of the Vice-President who recently was on the Copperbelt for purely party campaigns,” Lifuka said. “These ministers and senior government officials are drawing public resources in the form of fuel and per diems for political party activities – this is abuse of office, which should not be allowed in 2011. President Banda should act prudently and dissolve his Cabinet at the earliest opportunity and thus freeing the ministers to engage in political campaigns using their own or the party resources.”

He said too much effort was invested in trying to prove that the government was doing something about corruption - statistics including the TI Corruption Perception Index – which the government had previously condemned, were manipulated just to convince those that were gullible about the purported progress that is being made in this fight.

“All manner of propagandists and pseudo spin-doctors - some of them, well known opportunists - were hired for this exercise. Government leaders should be reminded that good actions, in the fight against corruption, should speak for themselves and the people will judge this government on that basis,” he said.

He urged the government and all political players to prioritise the need to eliminate electoral corruption so that the electorate was allowed the opportunity to choose their preferred candidate without any undue influence through vote buying.

Lifuka challenged political parties to commit themselves to corruption-free elections and that all players should refrain from bribing people for their vote.

He said corruption still remained rife and systemic in a number of ministries and government agencies.

“Some ministries continue to grapple with the problem of corruption and abuse of office. Ministry of Health and Roads Development Agency had to contend with audit reports which highlighted several areas of weaknesses. Similarly, the year has ended with the regulations for the Zambia Public Procurement Act still not in place, and yet the weaknesses and the corruption allegations associated with public procurement of goods and services are well documented,” Lifuka said.

“Some cooperating partners have gone as far as withdrawing budget support to emphasise their discontentment with the manner that Government is managing public resources. Others like the Global Fund for TB and HIV/AIDS, have issued damning audit reports - which initially was denied by government and all these point to the fact that corruption and all its offshoots remain a challenge for Zambia.”

He said the political handling of high profile corruption cases in the courts of law was poor and gave credence to growing citizens’ concerns about the selective application of the law in the country.

“Specifically, the High Court’s decision not to register the London High Court judgment against former President Frederick Chiluba and the stance taken by Government and the Attorney General, sent mixed and unhelpful signals on the seriousness attached to the fight against corruption. The Attorney General, despite acknowledging the validity of the London High Court judgment, still found it prudent not to appeal against the High Court ruling,” he said.

Lifuka said another highlight of the year was the debate and subsequent enactment of the Anti-Corruption Bill amidst public outcry on the removal of section 37 of the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, which dealt with illicit enrichment of public officials.

He said the MMD government’s action raises speculation as to the real intentions for watering down the Anti-Corruption law.

He said it was unfortunate that the provision in the law which deals with potential mischief of illicit enrichment has been removed and government leaders keep vacillating in their arguments on how they would deal with illicit enrichment.

“One day you hear a government leader referring to section 99 of the Penal Code which unfortunately describes ‘abuse of office’ as a misdemeanor and the next day, another refers to the use of Forfeiture laws,” said Lifuka.

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