Former Defense Minister in the Patriotic Front government, Mr. Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, also known as GBM, has called on President Hakainde Hichilema to desist from using private auditors to audit the Ministry of Defense saying he is risking national security.
Mr. Mwamba says the Ministry of Defense handles high-level security business transactions whose access requires different levels of security clearance and oaths of office. The former lawmaker says civil servants understand these requirements better and, in the history of this country, have largely demonstrated that they can be trusted with sensitive information.
“As a former Defense Minister, I can tell you that the Ministry of Defense and other security wings of the state handle very sensitive state business that is entirely in national interest but cannot be understood and appreciated by someone outside the civil service”, Mr. Mwamba says.
President Hichilema, Mr. Mwamba says, must stop thinking like an opposition leader, and must stop thinking and acting like a businessman, and instead begin to think and act like a Head of State and a custodian of state interests. By inviting private auditors in the Ministry of Defense, Mr. Mwamba says, the President is demonstrating the fact that he has not successfully transitioned from an opposition politician and a businessman to a statesman.
The aspiring candidate for the position of president in the PF party says the office of the Auditor-General is sufficiently qualified to audit the Ministry of Defense in addition to the fact that as public employees, they understand and appreciate their obligation to national and security interests. Mr. Mwamba says the academic and professional qualifications of officers in the office of the Auditor-General are the same as those of their counterparts in the private sector thereby making redundant the idea of bringing outsiders to a job that insiders are perfectly qualified to handle.
The PF Chairman for mobilization says the only deficit Mr. Hichilema must address himself to is the apparent lack of political will to act on the recommendations of the Auditor-General’s reports, a narrative that is well known in this country.
“The problem is not the ability of the auditor-general to do his job. Instead, the problem is doing something about what the auditor general has found out and recommended”, Mr. Mwamba said.
As a man who was voted on the promise to fight corruption, Mr. Mwamba said the President must act in a way that he does not leave any room to doubt his commitment to his promises, a reference to the fact that Grant Thornton, a firm President Hichilema was associated with, is one of the firms given contracts to audit the Ministry of Defense.
“The nation will begin to doubt whether the President has indeed divested his interests in the company and whether he is not using and abusing his position as President to give his colleagues business”, Mr. Mwamba wondered.
In addition, the opposition politician is asking Mr. Hichilema to disclose how much money government is spending on these audits questioning the rationale since he claimed that he inherited empty coffers. Mr. Mwamba says private auditors do not come cheap as he wonders why a President who claims that he is prudent with public funds would take such an expensive and luxurious route barely a year after he won his first term in office.
“Is he in a hurry to make money because he knows he is not winning a second term”, Mr. Mwamba wonders.