We, the Oasis Forum would like to add our voice to many people of good will that have spoken so far raising concerns in the way national resources are being used and with particular reference to allocations in the 2013 National Budget.
Office of the First Lady
The creation of the “Office of the First Lady” by the Ministry of Finance and the subsequent allocation of a budget line to it has raised genuine concerns. We are aware that First Ladies have public functions by virtue of their association with the Presidency and occasion legitimate expenses that should be borne from the National Treasury. However, it is also true that the functions of the First Ladies are not independent but auxiliary to those of the elected head of state. Therefore finances earmarked for their functions should be inherent in the budget that covers the functions of the President. As of now, the First Lady in Zambia cannot function as a controlling officer and has no mandate to authorise public expenditure. The arbitrariness demonstrated by the Ministry of Finance in determining budget lines to the extent of creating controversial expenditure lines should be checked by law. Government has to enact the Budget Act which will help to direct the Ministry of Finance in making budget priorities. We have in the past gone through the equally controversial “Presidential Discretionary Fund” during the Presidency of the late Mr FTJ Chiluba. We should thus learn from our past mistakes.
Retirement homes for former Heads of state
The budget also includes estimates for construction of houses for former heads of state. Whereas we support the need to take good care of our retired Heads of State, we feel that this should be done with due diligence, taking into account the financial situation of the country and also prudent prioritisation. We question the inclusion of the serving Head of State in the estimates for 2013 having been just over one year in office and not yet retired!, when we still have a several retired Heads of State on the waiting list. The other matter that still needs to be clearly stated through policy is the ownership status of these retirement properties, that is whether they remain property of government or they are given as gifts to the families of the retired presidents.
Media response to government critics
We also take great exception to some of the media bodies that have made it a habit of unfairly disparaging, labelling and even insulting anybody who questions governance practices. Democracy in Zambia has to date survived not because of one person or institution, but due to the collective efforts of Zambians in different measures. It does not auger well for media bodies to appoint themselves defenders of government even when government actions need to be questioned. We can only assure the public that such futile behaviour from some media bodies will not stop us from speaking the truth.
Kabimba and GBM
Finally, we would like to express our concern on the conduct of the Minister of Justice when he was invited by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to answer questions around allegations levelled against him. His action of insisting to be interviewed publicly in the presence of PF party carders seem to have been schemed to block the ACC interrogation. This is an act of intimidation to the institution and behaviour not befitting a government minister. It is circumvention of justice and the only rational way to deal with this situation is to ask the two ministers to step down from their ministerial positions so that they are investigated without the impediments of the government positions.