By Peter Sinkamba
In his inaugural speech, President Lungu pledged to stamp-out corruption in the country, as a matter of priority. The anti-corruption pledge by the President is at a risk of being a pipe-dream if the Minister of Finance Felix Mutati fails to prioritize timely disbursement of funds to corruption-prone strategic institutions, particularly the councils.
The Director General of Zambia Revenue Authority informed the nation that ZRA collected K23.4 billion of the K23.8 billion target. This means ZRA collected 98.3% of the projected target. Therefore there is no justifiable reason why the Minister has failed to timely disburse funds to councils up to this point.
If anything, the Minister of Finance is already failing the President on the pledge to stamp-out corruption by not timely releasing funds to run the Councils and pay the emoluments of the Councillors and their heads. This failure by the Minister is really depressingly because it is the harbinger for corruption.
Councils countrywide have been notorious corruption havens in the last 25 years because successive governments have neglected to fund them sufficiently and timely.
This follows privatization by government of their key income generating ventures, business premises and houses, which councils used as key sources of revenue. Prior to 1991, councils were considerably self-sustaining because they used to run water utility, liquor, cinema, tailoring, and other business ventures which all were all hived-off council and sold out as part of the government structural adjustments reforms. Due to the cut-off of revenue streams, councillors resorted to selling plots illegally as a survival strategy and for corrupt motives.
The signing of the Constitution by President Lungu brought some glimmer of hope because the new Constitution puts forth a sustainable financing arrangement for funding of councils and emoluments for the councillors. It appears government is still confused on implementation of this financing arrangement.
This appears to have driven councils and councillors in an uncertain mode. It is especially important to be mindful that some of the councillors borrowed funds to run their campaigns and they desperately need money to repay their loans. The uncertainty on when they will be paid can prime corruption. The financial insecurity may drive them to resort nauseating vices of selling plots illegally.
We as the Green Party shudder to see escalation of corruption in councils on account of delayed release of funds by the Minister of Finance. We therefore demand that the Minister releases funds to councils without further delay.