Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
IN THE words of former British Prime Minister David Cameron, corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of our problems.
Just as parasitic leeches suck the blood and strength of an animal, corruption weakens and destroys a country’s economic potential and moral fibre.
Corruption is mainly the reason countries which are richly endowed with natural resources still wallow in poverty.
This is because through embezzlement, mismanagement, or misapplication of public funds, corruption often misdirects resources into pockets of few greedy individuals at the expense of investing in service delivery and national development. It takes away from the already-tight national budgets, crowding out important national investments.
The vice also hurts the poor by depriving them of fundamental services such as health, education, water and sanitation, among others, because money meant for such services usually ends up in pockets of greedy individuals.
Evidence suggests that corruption slows down or even reduces economic prosperity in a vast majority of economies around the world. A few privileged individuals may enjoy a spectacular rise in fortune, but countries fail to achieve their growth potential because of corruption.
Corruption, if left to thrive, also distorts business competitions, inhibits development and undermines the rule of law and good governance.
Given the debilitating effects of corruption, and as a country that still has a long way to go in its development journey, we cannot allow the vice to take root.
We need to be resolute in the way we deal with the vice.
For this reason, President Edgar Lungu deserves commendation for setting the right tone against corruption.
During the recent International Anti-Corruption Day commemoration under the theme “United Against Corruption”, President Lungu did not mince his words when he directed the Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) to arrest all perpetrators of corruption regardless of party affiliation.
“Perpetrators of corruption will face the full wrath of the law regardless of their status in society. These are not mere rhetoric words; these are real words coming from my heart, no one is above the law. So help us to clean the system.
“If you are a criminal you are a criminal, whether you belong to PF (Patriotic Front) or opposition, the law will follow you,” President Lungu said.
This message should send shivers to all those corrupt individuals who thought they could use their party affiliation to shield themselves against the law.
President Lungu has done well to make his stance known publicly. This will certainly give the law enforcers more impetus knowing they have the support of the highest office in the land.
For many years, despite the Auditor General’s report exposing glaring cases on financial misapplication and abuse, there was no action taken.
It is, however, encouraging that this year we have seen a number of cases exposed through the Auditor General’s report being prosecuted.
Recently three employees from the Judiciary were fired due to financial misconduct.
In October, 12 accountants were fired from the civil service for misappropriation and abuse of public funds.
This is a strong indicator that enough is enough. It cannot be business as usual when greedy elements are busy looting public resources.
Government should also be commended for showing commitment to prudent financial management through implementation of the Financial Management Act.
The act provides guidelines on how to manage public resources and punitive measures for abrogation.
The African Parliamentary Network Against Corruption (APNAC) chairperson, Cornelius Mweetwa, however, noted that some government officers are not adhering to the Act.
Such individuals will have no one to blame if the law catches up with them.
All public officers involved in management of public resources have a responsibility to familiarise themselves with the Finance Management Act for them to perform their duties within the confines of the law.
It should be known to public officers that ignorance is no defence against the law.
Public officers need to understand the act if they are to protect themselves from superiors who would want to use them in corrupt activities.
Corruption is criminal, whether delegated or out of one’s own initiative.
Public officers must therefore guard against being used by superiors or politicians because when the law catches up it will be them to face the wrath not those who issued verbal orders.
Under the Act, you go to jail alone. As controlling officers, each one is responsible for the Act. At the end of the day you will not point at the president because you will go to jail alone, President Lungu said.
Public officers and in particular controlling officer should take the president’s counsel seriously if they are to avoid rotting in jail.
Following the President’s resolute directive, we expect ACC to act accordingly and arrest all corrupt elements regardless of party affiliation or status.
While ACC plays a bigger role in ensuring that corrupt individuals are prosecuted, it will take the involvement of all Zambians to win the fight against corruption.
Every citizen has the responsibility to refrain from engaging in corrupt activities and also report those found wanting.
Let us all unite against corruption.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA