Editor's Comment

Stop the loot

FOLLOWING shocking revelations of pilferage of funds through dubious transactions, President Hakainde Hichilema has tasked newly appointed Attorney General Mulilo Kabesha to help address loss of public funds paid to fictitious creditors. This task must be top of the priority list. President Hichilema is disenchanted, and justifiably so, that in the past, agreements that worked against the people of Zambia were entered into under the watch of legal experts resulting in the loss of millions of dollars given to non-existent companies. “This country is losing a lot of money, a lot of money is lost on paying fictitious creditors, people who have supplied air to the government are paid millions of dollars, and people who have supplied expired drugs are paid millions of dollars. “Sometimes one invoice is paid twice, three times, we need to address these issues, the illegalities around this issue, which is causing Zambians to lose millions of kwacha which is supposed to go to youths, which ought to go to the sick, which ought to go to the retirees,” President Hichilema said.
As a country that has a long way to go in its development journey, such kind of plunder should not be tolerated, not even in the slightest terms. Needless to say, as things stand, the needs of the country outweigh the resource basket. National budgeting is usually a daunting task as government endeavours to allocate resources to a myriad of competing needs. It is therefore disheartening that amid limited resources, some individuals entrusted with the responsibility to look after the welfare of the country can make callous decisions, leading to loss of millions of kwacha. Such selfish decisions have far-reaching effects on the innocent citizens. When money is siphoned through dubious payments to creditors, it is the ordinary citizens who are denied quality healthcare service, education and a decent living, among many other vital services.
When money is diverted into individuals’ pockets, development is also hampered. For instance, some contractors are paid for services never delivered or for delivering shoddy works. In other instances, the pricing of services and goods procured are over-priced, depriving taxpayers’ value for money. How can a country develop like this? As long as this rot is allowed to continue, development and attainment of the 2030 vision will remain a far-fetched dream. It is, however, comforting that the President has directed the Attorney General, who is a signatory to all government business transactions, to stop the plunder. The Attorney General has a daunting but achievable task ahead to help ensure that sanity is restored in public expenditure. The Attorney General must at all costs avoid falling into the trap of pleasing a few elitists at the expense of the poor masses. Through the execution of his duties, the Attorney General is expected to uphold high moral values by giving sound legal opinions on matters of national interest. For instance, it is expected that the Attorney General will, through sound legal advice, save government from entangling itself in enslaving agreements. It is also hoped that the new government, working with the Attorney General, will reduce on the appetite to borrow. This is one of the areas in which the country has fared badly in the past. There is need for relevant authorities to critically interrogate any proposal to acquire debt before appending signatures. In as much as the country cannot completely do away with borrowing, there must be serious restraint to avoid filling one hole by digging another, if not a much bigger hole. To get ultimate value out of the country’s meagre resources, there’s also need to regulate the pricing of goods and services through the procurement system.
It is, therefore, encouraging that procurement experts through Zambia Public Procurement Agency (ZPPA), as a response to the President’s concerns, recently launched a Market Price Index (MPI) aimed at harmonising prices of goods and services and ensuring efficiency. It is hoped that all those entrusted with managing public resources will work together to ensure that the haemorrhage of public funds is stopped for a better Zambia.

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