Human Rights Defender Brebner Changala has challenged President Hakainde Hichilema to fulfill his promise by making the office of the Public Protector effective to curb corruption in his administration.
Mr.Changala said that he is shocked that the new dawn administration has not shown any commitment to operationalize this office which enjoys the security of tenure by taking the necessary legislation to parliament for approval.
Mr.Changala said that corruption has become endemic in Zambia and the office of the Public Protector is critical to rid this vice.
Last week, Mr. Changala said that the Public Protector is the only government wing that can fight corruption in the country and that the Office of Public Protector was provided for in the Constitution as amended in 2016, which is a replacement of the commission for investigations Act that was enacted in 1991 and that the office has not been actualised since former president Edgar Lungu’s assent to the amended Constitution on January 5, 2016.
According to the Act, among the functions of the Office of Public Protector are to: “(h) monitor and evaluate administrative activities and standards in State institutions and issue reports on matters of public interest; (i) promote public awareness of policies and administrative procedures on matters relating to administrative justice; (j) advise government on good administrative practices; and (k) perform any other functions as necessary or incidental to the performance of its functions under this Act or as may be prescribed under any written law.”
Mr Changala said that even the fertiliser scam would have been investigated properly if such an office was active.
“I have to give you a good example. We have a fertiliser scandal which the Executive does not want to discuss because they are part of the scam. Now if the Public Protector was functional, I know that scam would have received due attention,” he told The Mast. “The Anti-Corruption Commission, ask them whether they are looking into the fertiliser scam. Go to DEC (Drug Enforcement Commission), ask them whether they have even moved an inch towards the fertiliser scam. Go to the Zambia Police. Worse still because they are looking at who is behind this scam, what are the connections to the powers that be. And that is problem number one. And that’s where the tragedy comes in.”
Changala warned that without such an office being fully functional, President Hakainde Hichilema should forget about fighting corruption.
“Without a Public Protector, then-President Hichilema is going to do it on the basis of a good man. And this country does not need good men. It needs good laws and strong institutions. Good laws and good institutions are what we want, not good men,” he said.
“Those good men can go to Church. The fight against corruption should not only have a political will. It must also have strong laws and strong institutions. It must not be only about good men versus bad men or bad women. It is the laws that control the dignity of any ambition to fight the scourge of corruption.”
Changala said the fight against corruption by the UPND government would be nothing but in vain if it did not functionalize the Office of Public Protector.
He said the Public Protector was the only institution that could genuinely lead the fight against corruption embarked on by President Hichilema.
“Public Protector is the only tool to fight corruption and they are free from the Executive because this corruption mainly is in the arm of the Executive. I know it is also in the Judiciary. It is also in the Legislature but the main players are the Executive because they control the pace, they control the treasury and is a honey that has been attracting the bees,” Changala added.
He said he wanted to send a message to the new dawn administration that the fight against corruption would be nothing but the usual stories if such an office was not actualized.
Changala said no corruption fight would be achieved until the Public Protector’s office was functional.
“But for the current form that it is in, the Public Protector is in a good test. It is independent, it is as independent as the Judiciary. And that is the more reason we will not rest because this fight against corruption is only used against opponents because it does not go for criminals that are embedded in the Executive arm of the government,” he said.