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We expected Lungu to show more commitment over public finance abuse – ActionAid

ACTIONAID Zambia says it expected President Edgar Lungu to show more commitment and willingness to curb public finance abuse and corruption beyond just reminding public office holders that the money they were using to run the country was taxpayers’ money.

ActionAid said it also expected President Lungu in his address to Parliament last Friday to appreciate the concerns raised over the constitution refinement process and inform the nation on how the government would address the concerns and ensure that the process is credible.

It stated that the state of nation address by President Lungu was highly anticipated by the main stakeholders, more importantly the general citizenry, as it came at the time when the nation is facing numerous socio-economic challenges.

“The President’s address came in the backdrop of the country experiencing hunger crisis, with mealie meal prices skyrocketing; inflation rates breaching the target bracket of six per cent – eight per cent; fear of debt distress, increase in reported corruption and public finance abuse as well as the contentious constitution refinement process,” it stated.

It stated that looking at the measures outlined under the Economic Diversification Pillar, President Lungu has instructed government agencies to prioritise purchases of furniture from youth organized institutions.

“However, although this sounds interesting, the President mentioned within the same speech that debt and personnel emoluments stand at 90.1 per cent of the annual budget. Therefore, we are failing to understand how 10 per cent left from the annual budget will be distributed across all sectors and how can 10 per cent enable the relevant government agencies to prioritise the purchases of furniture and other office equipment from organised youth groups. So, the failure by government agencies to purchase office supplies from organised youth groups on account of lack of funds will affect job creation for young people and this will further affect economic diversification.”

ActionAid stated that the other pronouncements especially in critical sectors such as mining were not robust enough to improve productivity in the sector and create more jobs.

“In the speech, the President noted that copper production and earnings had plummeted in the first half of 2019 due to among other things, suspension of some mining operations, operational challenges and depleting ore reserves at old mines. Consequently, we would have liked to hear measures that will encourage mining explorations,” ActionAid stated. “Additionally, we expected more pronouncements around diversification within the mining sector from copper to other minerals such as gemstones and more around measures aimed at strengthening geographical mapping for minerals. We understand providing access to information for investment in mining has the potential to grow the sector, create more jobs and contribute towards an accelerated sustainable growth.”

It stated that poverty and vulnerability can only be reduced if funds meant for enhanced service delivery and poverty reduction programmes are safeguarded.

It stated that beyond the most talked about climate change, ActionAid-Zambia (AAZ) recognizes poor socio-economic governance as a leading factor contributing to socio-economic challenges in Zambia.

It stated that poor socio-economic governance facilitates public finance abuse as well as corruption, thereby limiting resources for socio-economic development as well as public service delivery.

It stated that looking at the recent happenings, there was widespread corruption and theft of public resources as highlighted in the Financial Intelligence Centre Trends Report of 2018.

AAZ expected President Lungu to show more commitment and willingness to curb public finance abuse and corruption beyond just reminding public office holders that the money they were using to run the country was taxpayer’s money.

It stated that many stakeholders including AAZ have been calling for strengthened systems at scrutinising the affairs or conduct of public officials entrusted with the mandate to manage public resources.

ActionAid stated that on creating a conducive governance environment for a diversified and inclusive economy: as stated by the President “good governance cannot be left to chance. This important ingredient of democracy starts with the supreme law of the law of the land, the Constitution”.

“Indeed, ActionAid Zambia is alive to the fact that a good constitution is critical in providing a conducive governance environment for a diversified and inclusive economy,” it stated.

However, ActionAid Zambia stated that it was disappointed with the undemocratic statement by the President regarding the constitution refining process when he said, “if you don’t want to refine it, we will refine it”.

It stated that this was against the principles of inclusiveness and takes away from democracy.
“Additionally, we expected the President to appreciate the concerns raised over the constitution refinement process and inform the nation on how the government will address the concerns and ensure that the Constitution refinement process is credible,” stated ActionAid.

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