PRESIDENT Lungu’s directive to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to investigate the purchase of the 42 fire trucks at US$42 million is in public interest.
Zambia has been awash with criticism of the purchase of the fire-tenders by the Ministry of Local Government and Housing.
While people appreciate the role of fire trucks, whose major function is to deliver fire-extinguishing agents to the scene of a fire, it is the cost which has suddenly caused an uproar.
Suddenly, people are awake and are now casting aspersion on the tender process, which they suspect was fraught with corruption.
That is why President Lungu has stepped in and advised the ACC to investigate so that the truth is established.
Zambia is a democracy and when citizens have some misgivings regarding certain matters which are of concern, they have to be looked into to calm the nerves of those in doubt.
As a listening President, Mr Lungu has therefore asked the ACC to conduct an enquiry into this matter which has aroused so much debate in the country, especially along the line of rail.
While some people may have genuine concerns, others seem to be debating with malice with a view of gaining political mileage.
It is a pity that some people are quick to judge others and pass judgement without proof.
President Lungu is an anti-corruption crusader and has vowed several times that his administration will not condone the vice and will not protect anyone who goes against the law.
Therefore, all those who have been casting aspersions should wait for the ACC to undertake a comprehensive appraisal of the fire-tenders. Better still, all those with any information to prove or suggest wrong-doing should submit this evidence to the investigators.
However, as the President has said, we expected the ACC to be proactive and should have done a due diligence the moment the debate started on social media.
The ACC is expected to be ahead of such matters so that it takes reasonable steps before they go viral.
In a democracy and a society where most people have political biases, Government departments should know that there will always be allegations of corruption.
These matters can only be cleared when there is more transparency in the conduct of Government procurement processes.
Procurement is a very sensitive matter and needs to be handled with a lot of care.
Therefore, institutions such as the ACC and the Zambia Public Procurement Authority should create a predictable and transparent framework for the conduct of public business.
There is need for more engagement with all stakeholders in the procurement process so that allegations of underhand methods are allayed well in advance.
It is good that there are continued efforts to amend the ZPPA Act to make the procurement process quicker and more transparent. These efforts must be expedited.
As the Transparency International Zambia has stated, the recent controversy and public outcry about the procurement of 42 Fire trucks and the award of a contract for the construction of the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriage road demonstrates the need for a review of the public procurement procedures.
Transparency and accountability are critical to gaining public confidence and staying clear from suspicions of corruption in the tendering processes.
It should be noted, however, that even under the current ZPPA Act, there are clear guidelines that help ensure fair play.
Unfortunately, many Zambians, including some of those that are complaining about this matter, have not even read the ZPPA Act as evidenced by their lines of argument.
Everyone who wants to make a worthy contribution to this matter must first understand what the law provides. Blind arguments, based largely on unsubstantiated information, will not help Zambia.
For now the challenge is on the ACC to use its extensive expertise to not only thoroughly investigate this matter, but to do so conclusively and speedily.