Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Prisons are for the poor in Zambia,the rich have the option of paying back- where is the justice

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What Happened to the 4.2 Million Kwacha that was Paid Back by Our Ministers?

How was this money spent? Can we trace it?

This write up aimed to provide a comprehensive appeal for the allocation of the repaid funds to the Forestry Department, emphasizing the potential benefits and necessity of such an investment.

I recollect writing about this matter some time back and I stated that It is gratifying that the constitutional ruling on former ministers staying in office after the dissolution of parliament has been adhered to by those concerned. As an advocate for forestry, agroforestry, wood utilization, and natural resource management, I would like to appeal to the government through the Secretary to the Cabinet, Secretary to the Treasury, and indeed the Ministry of Finance to consider investing the repaid Four million two hundred thousand Kwacha (K4,200,000) into the Forestry Department through the Forestry Development Fund. This investment could stimulate sector growth and facilitate increased timber trading by enabling the department to issue more concession licenses through the facilitation of forest inventories, which are a prerequisite for such licenses.

Background

On August 8, 2016, the Constitutional Court ordered ministers and their deputies, who had remained in office after the dissolution of parliament in May 2015, to pay back the money they had accrued in salaries and allowances during the period they were illegally in office. After lengthy deliberations, on December 7, 2020, the Constitutional Court gave former Cabinet ministers, their deputies, and provincial ministers 30 days to repay over K4.2 million. By January 9, 2021, it was reported that all former ministers who stayed in office had refunded the treasury.

Problem Statement

According to the 2017 report by the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture, Lands, and Natural Resources on sustainable forest management, the Auditor General noted that Zambia had 483 forest reserves needing management plans. The Forestry Department’s annual reports from 2012 to 2015 indicated that the lack of management plans was due to the absence of basic information and resources, such as funds and human resource capacity. Additionally, the Forestry Department lacks essential inventory equipment and has not conducted national or local forest inventories due to limited resources.

Justification

The Forestry Department requires substantial attention and funding to fulfill its mandate under the Forest Act of 2015, which includes managing national and local forests and stipulating license and fee requirements for timber production. The World Bank’s 2019 Country Forest Note highlighted the department’s inability to fulfill its mandate due to inadequate resources. Channeling the K4.2 million Kwacha into the Forestry Department through the Forest Development Fund, as established under the Forest Act No. 4 of 2015, would support forest management and development. This investment could lead to increased government revenue through the issuance of more concession licenses and export duties on timber.

Benefits of this Investment

1. Employment: The forest sector is labor-intensive. Each concession license holder could employ at least 30 workers, potentially creating over 10,500 jobs nationwide.
2. Increased Government Revenue: The projected revenue from concession licenses and export duties significantly outweighs the initial investment.
3. Acquisition of Tools and Equipment: The Forestry Department would be better equipped to manage forests.
4. Capacity Building: Training for forestry personnel would enhance their ability to conduct forest inventories.
5. Reduced Tax Evasion: Issuing licenses could reduce illegal logging and increase tax compliance.

The Forestry Department has historically lacked adequate resources to manage forests effectively, resulting in poor funding, understaffing, and inadequate transport. The K4.2 million Kwacha could be a substantial boost to the department’s efforts towards sustainable forest management. However, the department must use these funds prudently to maintain donor confidence. Furthermore, legislation to regulate forestry professionals and enforce a code of ethics is essential. By combating complacency and promoting sustainable management, we can ensure that Zambia’s forests benefit the Zambian people rather than foreign investors.

Chaliafya Katungula

Advocate General for Forestry Advocacy for Communities Communication, Transparency, Accountability and Research

3 COMMENTS

  1. Seriously, I feel this appeal is rather too late from our learned writer. How sure are you that the money is still there? How many budget cycles have passed since the repayment was done? We have budget submissions going on for 2025. Can you channel the energy towards that please. Some battles should be left and concentrate on relevant ones.

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  2. The question is what happened to the 4. Million that was paid back. A proposal was submitted but I guess it was never considered.

    In any case can we trace it.
    Am glad,

  3. I salute you for this thoughtful request brother. talking about environmental disasters without considering environmental management and practice is pure rhetoric! not knowing what the 2015 piece of legislation entails, I probably have reservations for native timber exports by any party, unless it includes replanting and controlling of tree populations.

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