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DON’T ‘STEAL’ DONOR MONEY – UK MP

A VISITING British member of parliament says Zambia needs to ensure that no donor money is lost through corruption. And Eastern Province permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo has assured the British government that Zambia will ensure that its efforts in Zambia are sustainable and good for the country.
Meanwhile, Luangeni member of parliament Charles Zulu says he does not tolerate embezzlement of funds meant for the people.

On Monday, British High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet tweeted that the United Kingdom had frozen all bilateral funding to the Zambian government owing to corruption and fraud. It was after the Zambian government, through its spokesperson Dora Siliya indicated that the relations with the DFID, the major donor to the Social Cash Transfer, were still intact.

Later on Tuesday, President Edgar Lungu issued a statement directing Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Roland Msiska to probe the reported abuse of donor funding. President Lungu on Wednesday fired community development minister Emerine Kabanshi over the scandal. So far, other countries that have withdrawn bilateral aid to Zambia are Finland, Ireland and Sweden.

The latest issue of the Africa Confidential has also hinted that there’s another investigation going on involving tens of thousands of donor funds in the Ministry of Education.

Speaking when a group of British parliamentarians currently visiting Zambia with the aim of supporting DFID supported programmes,  including scaling up of nutrition, paid a courtesy on Kasolo on Tuesday afternoon, Chelsea and Fulham member of parliament Greg Hands who also served in government as trade minister said his government was doing the right thing to fulfil its international obligation.

“We are very much thankful to the commitment here in Eastern Province, Chipata district. When I say it’s controversial in UK, it’s very important we know that the money is well spent and that none of the money is going to corruption or misspent. This is an excellent programme, we learnt a great deal,” Hands said.

He said his team was in Zambia to see the programmes that were done using funds from UK in action.

“We are going to continue with our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our gross national income for international development although sometimes it’s controversial in UK but I think the government is doing the right thing to fulfil our international obligation. However we need to make sure that the money is spent well because if the money is spent badly then fewer people will benefit. Making sure that the money is spent well is incredibly important and that’s why we are here to see the programme in action,” Hands said.

He also expressed shock with the high levels of stunting among children under five in Zambia.

“Frankly, Zambia as a low middle income country surprise me as a first time visitor to Zambia that you have got problems as big as 40 to 46 per cent of under-fives suffering from stunt. That is a very high number for a low middle income country,” said Hands.

“This is Zambia, a lower middle income country, it is such an important thing that we all try to do something about stunting. Stunting affects the growth of the brain, learning and many others. It’s good that you have received information about it.”

The MPs were happy with what people from the SUN programme demonstrated at Chikando.

Highbury member of parliament Ray Collins said children were the future of their community and country.

“The change that I have learnt about today is that you will lead and take forward and you will make your community and your country more prosperous,” said Collins.

And Kasolo said Zambia was grateful for the support it was receiving from the UK.

“One thing that we have a big problem in this country is that the first critical days are usually distracted by one of the ravages that we have here such as malaria, nutrition, bad water, all those nasty things. So when we have a charity coming from a developed country,  we recognised the fact that it’s not the old chaps like myself that really matter in terms of support but the young ones. I am very grateful that you are providing support to us,” he said.

Kasolo said he was thankful to British taxpayers who were paying for various programmes.

“They (UK taxpayers) are the people we should try to understand why they are helping. They understand what they see on television, those nasty reports about the poverty that we have here. I am first of all proud to accept that we are a poor nation, I am very proud to accept that we need help from our cooperating partners. We need that assistance not only in terms of money but also in terms of knowledge of how to deal with the problem, knowledge about how to target the most effective areas of hope to bring impact,” said Kasolo.

The visiting parliamentarians are expected to tour some UK-funded programmes during their tour. And Zulu said he would ensure that funds meant to uplift people’s living standards were properly used.

“We will make sure that whatever you give us we put it into good use. For me personally as an MP, I don’t want to hear funds going missing. About four years ago, two people went to prison for stealing Constituency Development Funds, I made sure we took the culprits to court and they were jailed for two years. I will continue monitoring these activities so that our children are saved, lets save them, please continue helping us,” said Zulu.

The withdrawal of aid to the Social Cash Transfer scheme by the donors has sent President Lungu’s government into panic mode, with many seeing the dismissal of Kabanshi as a scapegoat.

Sources at State House have told The Mast that the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Community Development, Dr Liya Mutale, has also been earmarked for dismissal in connection with the missing funds from the DFID amounting to over $4 million meant for vulnerable households.

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