Inonge’s accountability demands

Inonge Wina has directed the Ministry of Health and the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) to publish all donations towards the COVID-19 fight to enhance accountability.

Inonge says the public needs to follow the quantity of all the donations for them to develop confidence in the entrusted institutions.

She says the move would increase public confidence in government dealings.

“I would like to thank national coordinator here at DMMU [Chanda Kabwe] and your team and the Ministry of Health for ensuring that all donations received from the general public toward the fight against COVID-19 pandemic are well accounted for in terms of receipts…. This include financial and material donations. Currently, the Office of the Auditor General has stationed 16 officers at DMMU and Ministry of Health to work with internal auditors in ensuring accountability of all donations, both material and financial,” says Inonge. “I further direct the DMMU national coordinator and the permanent secretaries at the Ministry of Health to publish all donations coming through in the fight against COVID-19 to enhance accountability.”

Whereas it is very difficult to trust this PF government over accountability and transparency, especially over money, Inonge’s directives must be encouraged.

That a demand for accountability is coming from the PF leadership is interesting. This is a regime that has failed to account for billions of dollars of Eurobond money. How can this administration therefore be entrusted with managing millions of donated money and materials and be expected to be honest, accountable? What could be the motive behind Inonge’s directive? Does she have the support of the rest of the PF leadership, including that of her boss, Edgar Lungu?

But there’s absolute need to put every ounce of our energies in the battle against the coronavirus if we are to come back to normalcy.

The World Bank, for instance, points to the need for strong institutions to hold leaders and their management of the COVID-19 response accountable. It stresses that, “We must not forget that open, transparent and accountable governance and strong institutions underpin a healthy and well-functioning society. This has never been truer than in this crisis.” There’s need to establish mechanisms for reporting the amounts co-financed through the emergency fund at each spending agency level. And the total expenditure on COVID-19 from both regular government budget and the emergency fund need to be reported along with output and outcomes.

This is critical especially that the UN system says this pandemic is far more than a health crisis. That it is a human crisis, “…not just a health pandemic. It is a jobs pandemic. A humanitarian pandemic. A development pandemic.”

It is from this premise that every penny received from donors and funds from the treasury are disbursed prudently.

Accountability and transparency should reign above anything else, after all it has been observed that when leaders model accountability, transparency, and ethical behaviour, lower-level employees often follow suit.

And as we have stated before, the enormity of the situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic invites – or rather forces – us to reflect on the nature and effectiveness of the way our country is being governed. In our current situation with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the central governance issue involves getting people to divert from their normal routines in the name of public health goals. In some cases, they are even asked to forego engaging in the activities that provide daily sustenance. A tall order to say the least. Plenty of public resources are being channeled toward combating the pandemic. But we also know that where there’s a lot money being spent the possibility of stealing is high, especially in a highly corrupt country like ours. The Ministry of Health has been the centre for stealing public funds. It is a ministry reeking with corruption in every pore. And accusations of corruption over the way COVID-19 funds are being spent are justified. This is a ministry with a reputation for stealing. Look at how some people in this ministry have quickly become rich! But at whose expense? At the expense of people’s lives – lives have been lost.

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