Finland says it is has entered into discussions with the new management at Zambia National Farmers’ Union in a bid to claim back the misused funds from the Union.
Speaking during the Finish National Day held at his residence on Wednesday, Finish Ambassador to Zambia Timo Olkkonen said Zambian farmers deserve a strong, credible, well-governed and managed Union which promotes not only their interests but that of the county’s agricultural in general.
Mr Olkkonen also urged the new Union management to do their best in putting back the Union back on track.
“Finland is claiming back the misused funds from the Union, and we have entered into discussions with the new management of ZNFU on the issue. Zambian farmers deserve a strong, credible,a well-governed and managed Union to promote their interests and that of Zambian agricultural in general. Though our cooperation cannot continue as it used to, I wish the new management the best of success in putting the Union back on track,” he said.
In September last year, Sweden and Finland donors asked for the refund of the K 34 million allegedly misappropriated by the Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU).
Embassy of Sweden Deputy Head of Mission David Wiking at the time said that although the official process had not yet commenced, the two embassies had legal grounds to reclaim the funds.
Wiking, who is also Head of Bilateral Development Cooperation, further disclosed that his country and Finland would not continue funding ZNFU under the existing agreements with the Union.
He said the two countries have taken the bold decision of claiming a refund following the recent two corrective financial reviews carried out by KPMG of Finland.
Former ZNFU officials including the former President of the Union are in court on alleged corruption charges.
Meanwhile, the Finnish envoy also bemoaned the high levels of corruption in the country which he said should not be allowed to continue.
“This leads me to the issue of corruption. On that account, no compromise can be made. Unfortunately the ZNFU case was not the only one where we have encountered corruption in Zambia. We have had to deal with the issue in our cooperation with NGOs and also hear complaints about unfair treatment from Finnish businesses. A case in point were the thousands and thousands of ghost farmers exposed in the e-voucher scheme, also supported by Finland, of the Farmer Input Support Programme.”
He further explained that tackling corruption goes with economic reform agenda which has been put forward by the government.
Ambassador Olkkonen said stealing public funds is taking away money which belongs to Zambians meant to go towards development.
He commended Finance Minister Felix Mutati for tackling the economy challenges facing the country in an honest and open manner saying “government has a mandate of five years and that the time to make difficulty decisions is now”.
Further, the Ambassador noted that Zambia despite making significant growth in the economy, the country has not made any progress in the fight against poverty.
“I commend the government and Finance Minister Mutati of tackling the economic difficulties facing the nation and the serious public fiscal deficit in an honest and open manner. The government has a mandate for five years and the time to make difficulty decisions, even painful decisions, is now.
I am sure that everyone in government, the National Assembly and the Civil service rally behind the reform agenda, Zambia’s macroeconomics will be back on track soon,” he said.
He added ” with a Gini coefficient of 0.69 Zambia is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The economy has grown significantly without a reduction in poverty levels and so far policy measures seem to have been unable to produce pro-poor growth.”