By Laura Miti
When President Lungu addressed Parliament less than a week ago, he had known for months about the millions of dollars that have been stolen from the Social Cash Transfer programme and, as we are now hearing, from the Ministry of Education.
He also knew that donors had withheld critical funding because of the theft. Knowing all that, he still, in his speech, suggested that those speaking against corruption were engaging in baseless name calling. That they were generally driven by “narrow and selfish interests calculated to malign others simply because one has the platform to do so.”
He added that “the screaming headlines of corruption propaganda may succeed to malign someone, but they achieve nothing in terms of uplifting the lives of the poor and indigent of our society”. (Yes, the president termed citizen and media protests against corruption, propaganda!)
It is my view that the reason we are, today, sitting with millions of dollars having disappeared from multiple spending agencies is because of the kind of the defensive stance the President displayed in Parliament as regards corruption.
The President has found himself, panicky, firing a Minister who he had assigned a critical duty to pacify donors only hours before, because he has routinely taken the side of those accused of shocking mismanagement of resources and outright theft.
He has vilified those who have asked questions, arrogantly asking them to provide him with evidence of corruption, which evidence has been set out in black and white in government documents like the Auditor General’s and FIC Reports.
Well, as with an undisciplined child who hearing his parents constantly defend his errant ways learns that there will never be consequences for his bad behaviour, the thieves in government read the memo from their President. It said, I have your back.
It became open season for those who wanted build blocks of flats and mansions, send children to schools they could not afford, live lifestyles way, way beyond what could be afforded by the amount they legally earned.
With the big boss fighting for them, a whosoever-will-may-come attitude toward national resources was institutionalised among the connected.
Simply, I am saying, President Lungu is responsible for this grand theft of public money that is being reported. He not only refused to address scandal after scandal, he just about encouraged the thieves.
The writer is Executive Director at Alliance for Community Action, a civil society organization that advocacy go greater transparency and accountability in public finance management.