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Unpacking M&E with Dr Kanyamuna: why do leaders get angry when citizens ask accountability questions?

The Bible in Matthew 6:24 records, “No one man serves two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon”. This is what God teaches us to know that in life, we have choices to make – either… or! In this scripture, we are also taught that ‘options’ to choose from will always be presented before us. Therefore, everyone is required to take responsibility and ownership of the choices we make as we discharge our daily duties. But it is not only the lesson we can get from this scripture, we can easily relate it to what happens in our development pursuits in Zambia today. I have observed for some time now, when government officers, and especially the political elites are questioned by citizens or any concerned stakeholder about how certain public funds or resources have been utilised, anger, temper and some level of sarcastic responses emerge. Why?

In monitoring and evaluation (M&E), when a question of accountability is asked, we expect that a credible response will be given to either the satisfaction or not to the satisfaction of the one who raised the question. The crucial concern in M&E is the credibility and reliability of the answer. In both fact and accuracy, responses to accountability questions backed by M&E information are better than those answers that contain value-laden emotions. What am I saying? There has been a growing misbehaviour and ruddiness by our leaders in charge of public resources across government institutions. Even non-government institutions are facing this problem of arrogance on a regular basis. Clearly, you can tell that our own leaders have made a choice to serve another master at the expense of another. It is in black and white that most of our leaders have sided with mammon and forsaken God—as taught in Matthew 6:24.

For many years now, Zambians have been asking their leaders and government officials several development-related questions. The questions have been raised from various aspects of society. Where one would expect that government and its leaders now have an opportunity to give credible responses to the citizens over how public resources have been used, the worst came out. To worsen the situation, these unsubstantiated responses came and still continue coming from our own Cabinet ministers and senior government officials. In some cases, the responses are coming from the Head of State, President Lungu himself. Zambians have received insults, threats and demeaning responses on public resource management. The issue with me is the high level of impunity and disregard for citizenry accountability perpetrated by our own elected leaders in the name of ministers, ruling party elites and their several patrons. The President should never be in the equation of entertaining or trivialising development questions that have a bearing on public resources. So I ask: why do our leaders get to angrily insult citizens whenever they are questioned to account for public resources?

Is it a question of choosing mammon at the expense of God and citizens? Where are the proceeds from the illegal Mukula tree saga? What about the confiscated logs of Mukula, where are they? Where is the complete report informing Zambians on what happened with the Mukula tree deal? What is the way forward with regard to exploiting (legally) the natural resource? US$ 42 million worth of fire trucks were spent by our government few years ago and Zambians protested against what appeared as a grand theft by our own leaders in power. Where are the tender documents that authorised that purchase? Why was that tender higher than the market price of the fire trucks as revealed by experts? Our government recently bought bicycles for Zambia Police. This too raised public accountability questions. Forest 27 is still a hotly contested issue among stakeholders today in Zambia. Why did government decide to degazette a strategic forest only to share residential and commercial plots? Who exactly benefited from the forest? Who is on the list? Further, Zambians wanted to dearly know who the owner of the 48 miraculous houses in Lusaka was—to date, our own government has lamentably failed to issue a report. What about the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway worth US$1.3 billion—how far is the project from completion? If it has stalled, why when all was set, according to government officials? You may wish to continue asking all sorts of accountability questions on expenses incurred on the failed Bill 10, unnecessary by-elections including FIC and Auditor General reports on financial irregularities. Now Zambians are asking, if Dr Chilufya Chitalu benefitted from the HoneyBee saga, how much is the Treasury recovering from him? Why is he not being investigated? In addition, government has repossessed KCM for over a year now. What is the true status of the mine? Why do miners and other stakeholders keep believing that government officials are duping the Zambians for their personal gains? I can assure you, all you can get from these questions are insults, threats and all forms of nonsensical responses from our own elected leaders. Why? Our retirees are not paid even after being assured by government, why?

I have come to conclude that our leaders have only one choice in answering the questions above. Even when you ask them another question regarding accountability of public resources, they will give you arrogance as their standard answer. They have chosen mammon instead of serving God and the people. This is not good. Worse off, Zambia is in deep problems. With weak M&E at all levels of our public sector, we shall never know the true extent of damage to the national resources these leaders have caused. Sad enough, we shall not even evaluate correctly the extent to which growth and development of our country would have been robbed. Even when we cage all of them in jail after losing power to another regime, these thieves will not disclose the mammon they are currently accumulating. For me, the only way is for Zambians to start afresh by electing in August 2021 a leadership that shall endeavor to take care of the left-overs. If possible (which I doubt) is to have a totally transformed current crop of leaders. It will take God’s powers to have the current Zambian leaders to get transformed into good boys and girls. The easiest is to ask God for a fresh and God fearing leadership, one which is hard working and forthright in their spirits and actions. Aluta continua for a better Zambia without insulting leaders when they are asked to account for public resources.

Dr. Vincent Kanyamuna holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Monitoring and Evaluation and is lecturer and researcher at the University of Zambia, Department of Development Studies. For comments and views, email: vkanyamuna@unza.zm

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