ESTHER MSETEKA, Lusaka
FISCAL discipline is a key element in the successful implementation of various progressive strategies like infrastructure development and the decentralisation programme.
But, without proper management and monitoring in the disbursement of funds, it is difficult to attain positive results.
Between 2007 and 2016, public resources amounting to K4.4 billion were lost through reported financial irregularities with about K404 million paid for undelivered materials.
Some scholars hold the view that rampant misappropriation, as reported in the Auditor General’s report, is a sign of a breakdown in the internal control environment of the public service.
However, Government is not sleeping on this matter, saying it will not hesitate to take stern action against any corrupt individuals.
Speaking when he opened a workshop on the establishment of the Construction Sector Anti-Corruption Advisory Forum (CACAF) last week, Secretary to the Cabinet Roland Msiska told stakeholders to use the newly-established platform to effectively fight graft.
CACAF aims at providing a sustainable platform for takeholders to enhance knowledge-sharing, networking and collaboration on ways of reducing and preventing corruption.
Dr Msiska notes that corruption is a cancer eroding the country’s already limited resources with direct adverse consequences on economic and governance factors.
“Therefore, creating an environment where everyone is continuously learning about corruption and its negative impact on the economy is important.
“Unfortunately, there is no platform in Zambia where various stakeholders can share information on anti-corruption activities in the construction sector, hence the need to establish such a forum,” Dr Msiska said.
Transparency International Zambia president Rueben Lifuka feels the construction sector contributes less to the economy due to corruption which various stakeholders seriously need to stamp out.
“Zambian construction industry players, public sector agencies and private sector actors should collaborate to adopt a more proactive stance against corruption,” Mr Lifuka said.
The University of Zambia (UNZA) has observed the scourge deters economic growth and has been forcefully working around the clock with other stakeholders to address the problem.
The setting up of CACAF will not only serve as an open source of information on corruption in the construction sector but also as a lobby for better policies and laws on fighting corruption, UNZA vice chancellor Luke Mumba explains.
With the support from the British Academy and the Department for International Development (DFID), UNZA has been spearheading the study.
Other institutions are Zambia Institute of Purchasing and Supply, the Association of Building Construction and Engineering Contractors and the Law Association of Zambia.
“The forum having been born out of a project that has more or less ended faces challenges of sustainability beyond the life of the project,” he said.
It is important to build confidence in the management of resources be it in Government, private sector or at individual level.
Zambia Tax Platform (ZTP), a consortium of organisations also highlights this as an important element in the re-distribution of wealth as enshrined in the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP).
Indeed, Government is alive to this fact as stressed in the 7NDP that is coiled on “Accelerating Development efforts towards Vision 2030 without Leaving anyone behind.”
It cannot be over-emphasised that President Edgar Lungu has repeatedly stated that under his helm, the government will continue to deliver inclusive and equitable development to the citizens through concerted efforts and also commit of all stakeholders.
“I would, therefore, like to urge all Zambians to be fully committed and participate in the implementation of this Plan [7NDP],” the President stressed in his foreword of the 2017-2021 plan.
It is thus hoped that enhanced fiscal discipline in the use of every Kwacha is significant in ensuring that Zambia addresses the many social-economic challenges affecting people.
ZTP also observes that to promote tax justice in the country, there is need for various stakeholders to provide checks and balances if Government is to make meaningful strides in the fight against fraud and drive development.
“Therefore, citizens should be encouraged to participate in public financial management issues such as budget preparation and implementation to achieve better development outcomes and this is the reason Government needs to focus more on generating voluntary tax compliance so that citizens appreciate the role of tax.
“lf citizens cannot trust Government with their tax money then this will negatively affects efforts of institutions like the Zambia Revenue Authority that is trying to build taxpayers confidence to raise more resources domestically,” it notes.
It is, therefore, impossible for any institution, government or individual to effectively operate without sufficient revenues because the minimum requirements for the fulfilment of economic and social privileges include the provision of foodstuffs and basic needs such as shelter.
Undoubtedly, the prudent use of money by Government is crucial in the delivering of services to citizens, addressing poverty and inequality, building accountability of governments to the populace and reclaiming policy space.