Editor's Comment

Spare no one in SCT saga

President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. PICTURE: SALIM HENRY/STATE HOUSE ©2017

THE bold decision taken by President Edgar Lungu to dismiss Minister of Community Development and Social Services Emerine Kabanshi is a clear demonstration of his uncompromising stance on the fight against corruption, misappropriation and misapplication of public resources, as well as poor supervision of those managing public resources.
The dismissal also sends a strong message to all public officers that there are no sacred cows in as far as the quest to ensure that every public ngwee is used for the purpose for which it is allocated.
While we acknowledge that we do not have the jurisdiction of the courts of law to pass a verdict on Ms Kabanshi, the fact that there has been glaring misappropriation of the social cash transfer funds under the ministry she was presiding over, the buck certainly stops at her.
An investigative report presented to President Lungu recently revealed that US$4.3 million still remains unpaid to social cash transfer beneficiaries in six provinces.
As a result of the misappropriation of funds under the social cash transfer scheme, Britain, among other donors, has frozen funding to Zambia.
It is justifiable and within President Lungu’s administrative obligations to relieve Ms Kabanshi of her duties in view of the prevailing saga.
As rightly noted by the special assistant to the President for press and relations, Amos Chanda, beyond the dismissal the matter will be treated as criminal if a forensic audit establishes so.
President Lungu has further ordered for quick administrative changes at Zampost and the Ministry of Community Development and Social Services which have been handling the social cash transfer funds.
Zampost, the company engaged to disburse social cash transfer funds to recipients across the country, is said to have diverted some of the money to paying retirees, subsistence allowances, purchase of motor vehicles and rehabilitation works at its office.
President Lungu is demanding that all the money be accounted for because it is meant for the poor.
It is indisputable that the diversion of social cash transfer funds has not only perpetuated untold suffering among the vulnerable, but is also a negation on efforts to alleviate poverty at national level.
It is also an insult to the integrity of the country and the government of the day.
It is the expectation of all stakeholders that the probe on this matter will be concluded quickly and decisive action taken.
This should send a strong message to all public officers that for those that fail to adhere to financial discipline, there is always a time for reckoning.
Ministers in particular have a huge responsibility to oversee the operations of their respective ministries to ensure efficiency, effectiveness and that all activities align to the country’s vision.
Actually ministers are the President’s lieutenants who are supposed to anchor him in delivering development to the people.
Ministers are therefore expected to fully understand the vision of the head of State and the direction the country is going and work accordingly.
We know that President Lungu has promised and devoted himself to leave this country better than he found it. We therefore expect his lieutenants to be seen to push this agenda through their respective ministries.
As clearly warned by President Lungu, he holds the power to appoint and dismiss anyone going against his vision.
This is a wake-up call to all public workers, especially those in supervisory positions. Integrity and accountability must be core values in the management of public resources.
Zambia must move away from a mentality that does not care if government resources are abused or not.
The limited resources, some of which are provided by cooperating partners, must be prudently used for the maximum benefit of citizens.
It is also the obligation of every citizen to be vigilant and report all suspected abuse of public resources.
The social cash transfer saga is also a wake-up call for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) to up their game.
It is of concern that while President Lungu ordered investigations into the saga four months ago, the enforcement agencies have struggled to deliver on time.
Understandably, some cases are complex and require thorough investigations to ensure successful prosecution. It would, however, be more beneficial to the country if investigations are concluded much faster.
It is our hope that the investigative wings will work round the clock to get to the bottom of the matter and bring every culprit to book.
This is the only way to deter further abuse of public resources.

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