Monday, August 05, 2013

Corruption is embedded in our society - Chikwanda
By Kabanda Chulu
Thu 18 July 2013, 14:01 CAT

FINANCE minister Alexander Chikwanda says it will not be easy for the government to change things overnight since corruption is embedded in the Zambian society.

And opposition members of parliament have proposed that the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) should have representatives from security wings as permanent witnesses who should take up cases of theft of public resources as highlighted by reports of the Auditor General.

Contributing to debates on the report of the PAC based on the 2011 financial year presented by committee chairperson Vincent Mwale, Chikwanda said the government had started addressing the issues raised in the report.

He said the proposals made should be put on paper to ensure effectiveness of PAC which was doing a commendable role as an oversight institution.

"We were not entirely in charge in 2011, but as a responsible government we have accepted what happened and we are making changes such as not allowing resource spending without procedures. We have also strengthened and made the office of the internal audit controller independent to effectively monitor government expenditure and identify wrongdoing before the Auditor General moves in," Chikwanda said.

"But these reforms take time, and corruption is embedded in our society, it will not be easy to change things overnight because we have to change institutions to suit our style and not eulogising countries where there is no democracy and elections are rigged all the time."

Presenting the report, Mwale said it was unacceptable that reports of the Auditor General have continued to reveal high levels of non-compliance by ministries, provinces and spending agencies.

"There have been marginal improvements in the amounts affected, for example, misappropriated funds reduced from K1.096 trillion in 2010 to K1.060 trillion. Unproductive expenditure should no longer be tolerated. Government should continue implementing measures to ensure that audit queries are completely eliminated," said Mwale.

Seconding the motion, Chama North PF of parliament January Zimba said the government should stop the tendency of non-adherence to accounting procedures by civil servants.

Monze UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu said Parliament would continue being a house of "wailing and lamentation" if those stealing public funds were not dealt with.

"Let us learn from Uganda where security officers sit with PAC and any government officer found wanting is arrested but in Zambia we have officers who live beyond their means, they drive Porsche cars, build mansions, yet we have ACC and DEC, which only targets opposition politicians and journalists," he said.

Senga Hill MMD member of parliament Kapembwa Simbao said it was difficult to understand reforms being undertaken by the government when a consultant cited for wasteful spending of K50 billion at Kasaba Bay airport has been given more projects.

"Despite spending K50 billion out of K63 billion, there is nothing at this project apart from piles of gravel and the consultant was also the contractor which was erroneous since this is only allowable in small projects," he said.

Katombora UPND member of parliament Derek Livune said civil servants were stealing public funds because they knew that nothing would be done to them.

"These people are well qualified but why do we get this highest disorder in managing public funds because in the private sector people lose jobs and are sent to jail over one ngwee," he said.

Lupososhi PF member of parliament Chungu Bwalya said the government should address the loopholes that result in financial irregularities than wait until detected by the Auditor General.

And Mazabuka UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo said failure to impose punitive measures on erring officers would make the PF government to end up like the MMD.

"PF should leave a legacy as people who tried to put things correctly or will become like MMD which is gone and will not come back, so government should be hard on workers who are tarnishing their name," he said.

But Mumbwa MMD member of parliament Brian Chituwo rose on a point of order asking whether Nkombo was in order to be the " judge and jury".
But Deputy Speaker Mkhondo Lungu ruled that Nkombo should have used 'may not' come back.

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