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PF corruption and calls for lifestyle audit

The PF is making accusations of impropriety, corruption or wrongdoing difficult to defend and dismiss.

The Patriotic Front is not only arrogant but the rot they spew in public is getting out of hand.

On Monday, Chishimba Kambwili challenged President Edgar Lungu to crack down on corruption in his government.

Kambwili says there is no friendship among thieves and that issues of corruption are now coming out.

“I have always said that this government is full of nothing but corrupt people and thieves and people didn’t take me seriously. Now have you heard after the arrest of [infrastructure minister Ronald] Chitotela, how themselves are now telling us who is a thief and who is not, among themselves? If you have heard a recording by one of the PF cadres which has gone viral from 05:00 hours, among themselves they have started revealing the corrupt practices that their ministers have been involved in,” said Kambwili.

According to the recording, a Patriotic Front cadre was displeased that Chitotela was singled out for corruption when there were many other ministers in government involved in the vice.

“Good morning brothers and sisters, members of the Patriotic Front. I’m sure all of us have the passion and desire to see that this party continues to be united. But what is happening, more especially to honourable Kaoma Chitotela is not acceptable. We all know [that] the people in government today, if we are real cadres of PF, abali ama ministers lelo bonse twalibeshiba. Twalishiba efyo baleikala before tabalaba ba minister mu 2011 (these who are ministers today, we know how their previous lifestyle were before they became ministers in 2011). People working at secretariat today, twalishiba efyo baleikala and we know the business they used to do. Today, let’s be honest, their lifestyle is for everyone to see. They swim in money and even boast that ‘we have too much money’. If we are to talk about corruption deals in our party, it is morally wrong to single out one person. It is not acceptable by all well-meaning members of PF. People that have been following honourable Chitotela’s case, see how the matter has been defended. You don’t need to be a lawyer or a rocket scientist to know where the case is going for the Anti-Corruption [Commission], it’s more weaker for them with its witnesses. It is because of them sensing that they will be embarrassed now [that] they have indicted him with weak charges,” according to the recording.

“This battle, we will not allow our brother to fight alone. We will fight it as a province [Luapula]. No one is talking about the fire tenders, ambulances, or many deals that we know. We are aware abantu bali ma neighbours besu, bambi balelomba nefya kulya kuli ifwe (people who were our neighbours and would even ask for food from us), today you are a minister and your life has drastically changed! We have helped them before and we can name them. We shall not accept any intimidation, let the due process of the law take its course. People are having dark corner meetings, scheming on how they will skin alive our brother [Chitotela]. We can expose you but we want to go united into 2021. Most of us who suffered for the party are on the streets while those who steal and swim in money are the ones fighting. PF, why are we like this? This is disappointing but let me tell you, you fight Chitotela you fight everyone. The battle has started.”

Earlier, this week we came across a tweet by former Attorney General, Musa Mwenye, State Counsel stating, “All of us who have held or hold public office must be subject to lifestyle audits. What did we have before we were appointed? What do we have during or after appointment? Lastly, if we claim we earned money legitimately, then let us show the taxes we paid or tax returns we filed.”

We agree.

A lifestyle audit is simply “a study of a person’s living standards to see if it is consistent with his or her reported income.”

Its purpose is to identify pointers to improper activity that has enabled the person to live beyond their means.

Lifestyle may be judged from things that are pretty public, such as a house, a car, a taste for extravagant food and drinks, holidays or expensive women (or men) which cannot be explained on the basis of what is known of the person’s resources. Other material may be less obvious such as the size of the person’s bank account. Some people can live apparent modest lives, preferring to hoard rather than spend their wealth. We believe it is imperative that civil servants and elected officials were made to undergo lifestyle audits, which are meant to determine whether their lifestyles were commensurate with their declared incomes. Given the state of our country and the type of people we have in leadership, many would struggle to justify their wealth. In fact, very few – if any – would welcome a lifestyle audit today. But it is high time that the culture of lifestyle audits was adopted in public service as a norm since it would go a long way in ensuring that the corruption menace is defeated. And if conducted, it would be critical that all those who fail to account for their wealth be faced with the censure. They must be publicly named, dismissed from their positions, sent to prison, and the assets they acquired from the proceeds of corruption seized and handed over to the government.

On the culture of openness, Jill Cottrell Ghai says there are many countries in which the assets of public officers are a matter of public record.

Cottrell says, “You can, for example, read online about the assets of British MPs, including payments they receive for television appearances, or writing newspaper articles, and donations for their work, as well as houses they own. Naturally, people don’t like it.”

The European Court of Human Rights gave a robust response to a Polish local government official who objected that this was a violation of his privacy. Privacy is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights as it is by the Polish Constitution. The Court said, “The general public has a legitimate interest in ascertaining that local politics are transparent and Internet access to the declarations makes access to such information effective and easy. Without such access, the obligation would have no practical importance or genuine [impact] on the degree to which the public is informed about the political process.”

 

 

All should support and encourage lifestyle audits because they are beneficial. And the calls are not out of this world, they are not alien because the nation once experienced strict auditing of its public and civil servants during the UNIP era. Ministers of government and civil servants were not allowed to run personal businesses at the same time hold a public office. There was a choice to be made, either to be in business full-time or in government, it could not be both. But that was as far as UNIP was. It is not difficult to predict why the UNIP leadership code was like that. What is happening today serves to explain it all. What is happening today makes the case for a lifestyle audit clearly compelling.

But we do not have a serious leadership that can enforce strict lifestyle audits of leaders. Edgar cannot enforce a lifestyle audit of his lieutenants and aides. He himself has not given an explanation of his sudden wealth accumulated within four years of being Head of State. Edgar in 2015 declared his worth at K2.5 million. There was no known business he declared then. Fast forward to 2016, Edgar jumped from K2.5 million to K23.7 million. Still there was no known business he indicated apart from being President. That was a jump in one year. Was this wealth donated to him? Is he running a secret mining operation? Today, it is not known how much his wealth has grown but your guess is as good as ours; if in one year he jumped from K2.5 million to K23.7 million, then probably he could be well close to K100 million today.

Several people, including Kambwili, has asked him to explain the source of his wealth, which clearly cannot be explained by his presidential emoluments and allowances for trips abroad. Edgar has not cared to explain himself on this score. Can someone who is in such a situation be reasonably expected to champion a lifestyle audit? Would he reasonably be expected to ask ZRA, the Drug Enforcement Commission, to follow up on the various buildings that have just sprung up recently to check where the money has come from? It would be expecting too much. But seriously, the country needs not just people of integrity. It needs a lifestyle audit as well. It cannot do to have people entering government just to enrich themselves at the expense of majority Zambians who deserve a service.

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