[By Masuzyo Chakwe and Oliver Chisenga]
TRANSPARENCY International Zambia president Rueben Lifuka says the success in the fight against corruption will only be possible when every Zambian assumes ownership in holding duty bearers to account and voicing out against all those who are corrupt, regardless of their positions in society.
And Anti-Corruption Commission Board Chairman Justice Anderson Ray Zikonda says the commission does not have resources to be in every corner of the country due to poor funding.
Lifuka has urged the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to remain professional, focused and independent, ensuring that there is no case too big or too politically sensitive for it.
He said the results of the 2019 Zambia Bribe Payers’ Index highlight the fact that public concerns were not misplaced.
“Corruption in this country is alive and well and we need to face that sad reality now and not later in the future. Those of us who are determined to fight this cancer and speak out without fear or favour have been called on to be patriotic and not paint the country black. We want to say that we accept the call but patriotism should never be used as an excuse for tolerance for corruption. Patriotism should never be a convenient justification for docility,” Lifuka said. “We should never be asked to sit on our hands while a few unscrupulous people help themselves to public resources. Corruption is never a victimless crime. Allowing corruption to thrive is a sure way to paint the country black. In fact, it is unpatriotic of those Zambians who fail to voice out and condemn corruption whenever this occurs. Actually, we would like to hear more voices speaking out against corruption and sending a clear message to those in power that they need to do more against this scourge. We want to assure you that as long as corruption remains high in this country, our voices will just get louder and our actions bolder than before.”
During the launch of the Zambia Bribe Payers Index survey report, Lifuka said TIZ’s reaction to the report was that Zambians had been given further grounds to earnestly call on the government to urgently address the many drivers of bribery – not just in the public sector but the private sector as well.
Lifuka said the value of such reports lie in the manner all stakeholders respond to the findings and recommendations.
“We cannot afford to be ambivalent as a people and as government in the light of these critical findings. It will be a betrayal of the many Zambians who would like to see concrete actions taken against corruption if we treat these results with the same pedestrian approach of the past,” he said
Lifuka said now was the time for strong political will as well as unwavering leadership with the foresight to deal with a scourge that has the potential to steal the future of posterity.
“The results of the ZBPI should invariably fortify our advocacy as CSOs and we will refine and sharpen our messages and improve our engagements with different stakeholders, including government in search for sustainable solutions. As Transparency International Zambia, these results serve as an encouragement for us to do more particularly in raising public awareness of bribery, state capture, grand corruption and other forms of corruption that continue to bedevil our country,” he said.
He said the ZPBI 2019 was not all doom and gloom as there was some good news in some respect.
“There is a glimmer of hope that with consistent action, we can rid our institutions of bribery. We want to applaud government departments and agencies like the Immigration Department, Ministry of Finance, Patents and Companies Registration Agency, NAPSA, Public Service Pensions Fund, Ministry of Works and Supply and ZAMTEL, where the results show there are lower or no probabilities of paying bribes by the public seeking services,” he said.
“This is encouraging and we would like to commend these institutions for the measures they are taking to curb bribery. We would like to encourage them to continue to cement organisational cultures that will be anchored on a zero tolerance to bribery and other forms of corruption. Do not relent and remain beacons of hope to the public.”
Lifuka said TIZ was encouraged to see some positive trends in the Bribe Payers’ Index for some critical target institutions like the Zambia Police’s Traffic Section, which previously had 63.9 per cent likelihood of the public paying a bribe, dropping to 40.7 per cent.
He said while this was commendable, it was still a high number and worryingly, the probability of paying bribes had significantly increased for other sections of Zambia Police.
Lifuka said TIZ has been working with Zambia Police in producing service charters and conducting trainings for police officers and anticipates improvements in the short to medium term.
“However, we want to call on the Police Command to devise medium and long term plans to address this problem of corruption in the Police Service. Corrupt police officers do not deserve to be part of the service and we challenge the police command to be decisive and weed out all officers engaged in bribery. Establish a hotline where the public can report corrupt police officers, strengthen training and in-service training of all police officers, and take timely actions against all those who fall short of professional standards,” he said. “We additionally call on the police command and all relevant authorities to address the perennial public concerns about corruption in the recruitment process for police officers. We want to see a professional, well disciplined and non-partisan police service.”
Lifuka said TIZ was concerned with entities like RTSA, the local authorities, Ministry of General Education and Ministry of Higher Education, as well as National Registration Office, Passport Office and Ministry of Lands, where high levels of bribe seeking behaviour had been noted.
Lifuka said both the ZBPI and TIZ’s own Global Corruption Barometer show that young people between the ages of 26 and 35 years old were observed to have paid the most when asked to bribe.
“We should not lose this young generation to corruption and all stakeholders should play a role in building integrity among young Zambians. We call on the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Ministry of National Guidance and Religious Affairs as well as the church, NGOs, academia, professional bodies etc, to initiate programmes to instill values and principles among young people,” he said.
Lifuka urged law enforcement agencies and specifically ACC to pay attention to some of the reasons given for not reporting bribery incidences including the loss of confidence that anything useful will be done about these reports.
“There should not be any case too big or too politically sensitive for the ACC. Public perceptions of a compromised ACC will not only be big threat to the fight against corruption but a liability to the nation. That said, we will remain supportive of the work of the ACC and continue to respect its important mandate,” he said.
Lifuka said the country should not expend energies discussing whether Zambia has a problem of corruption or not because the results of the ZBPI and many other studies clearly confirm this.
“Instead, we should collectively focus on finding solutions to the different manifestations of corruption. The ZBPI indicates that nearly 50 per cent of the respondents do not agree that government is doing enough to combat corruption,” he said. “This result is similar to the Global Corruption Barometer which reported that 70 per cent of the respondents thought the government was doing a bad job of tackling corruption.”
He noted that in the recent past, some government and political leaders had allowed themselves a luxury all could least afford, to play down the significance of the corruption challenge and its negative impact on the socio-economic status of the people, especially the poor and vulnerable.
“We have heard rather patronising statements to the effect that Zambia is doing very well in handling corruption and in fact the words used is that the work being done is ‘unprecedented’. Implicitly, some government and political leaders see the ever increasing public disquiet about the many allegations of corruption in the public sector, unwarranted,” he said.
Lifuka said statements to the effect that the talk about corruption is now becoming boring have been heard.
And Justice Zikonda said the ACC was equal to the task though void of resources to spread the country.
“You must all fight corruption, don’t leave the fight to one institution, it begins from our working places. If we detest corruption then this country will be a better place. You do know the consequences of corruption, that it denies resources to go to the appropriate places, to go for appropriate development of our country,” Justice Zikonda said.
He further said matters relating to corruption fight should not be left to a single institution.
“I want you to preach anti-corruption, write articles, good articles about corruption, it’s very important, it’s our duty, it’s everybody’s duty, it should never be left to one organisation. Yes, we appreciate that we are the lead organisation and this role we’ll take it and do our best but we cant achieve corruption free [society] if every citizen in this country can go and corrupt another one and another one accepts corruption and we will not be everywhere.”