PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema has told his Cabinet and provincial ministers that five years is a very short time, and that they should be concerned with delivering to Zambians.
Yesterday morning, President Hichilema opened a day long induction programme for Cabinet and provincial ministers at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.
According to Secretary to Cabinet Simon Miti, the induction programme for Cabinet and provincial ministers was meant to apprise them on government procedures, processes and practices.
“This programme is important as it will help the Honourable ministers to settle as they take up their new roles and responsibilities of managing government affairs,” Dr Miti said. “As directed by you, Mr President, Cabinet has invited all Cabinet and provincial ministers to this very important programme. The main objective of the induction programme is to accord the Honourable ministers a chance to fully understand government operations, in terms of procedures, processes and practices.”
Dr Miti added that the induction programme aims to acquaint ministers on the dos and don’ts in the public service.
President Hichilema said his new dawn administration would not tolerate transgressions bordering on ministers engaging themselves into procurement activities, and consequently inflating costs of procured goods and services.
“There’ll be no tolerance – zero tolerance levels – to such transgressions. Why? Because the people voted for us to give them water. And we’ve taken water away from them; then you walk in the morning, you sit in your chair you’re a minister and say, ‘oh, I’m doing very well! No sir, no madam; no! Not at all!” President Hichilema said. “Let’s save money. The savings we’ll place them in the youth empowerment opportunities so [that] they can employ themselves.”
He stressed that the government ought to quickly change procurement procedures.
“We shall do it very quickly,” he said, further telling ministers to go in their ministries and check what is being done wrongly.
“I have been doing that. The savings we’ll generate from this good behaviour will begin to make us decent people who can be proud to be Zambians.”
The Head of State added that if one of the ministers says previous the government was not doing well and then the very day they are appointed into a ministerial portfolio they are making calls as to which tenders are of interest to them, they are no different from past transgressors.
President Hichilema emphasised that ministers must have an interest to lower the cost of government works and goods.
“Three principles [should be followed]; procure at the right cost – competitive cost, benchmarks, good quality,” he noted. “Roads that were done and we were told ‘roads are being done,’ are peeling off already but done at a huge cost! Not in this government, not in this new dawn government. So, the right quality, delivery on time. We don’t have time; five years is not a long time; it’s a very short time.”
President Hichilema reiterated that ministers and him occupy government offices for and on behalf of ordinary Zambians.
“Please remember, as you walk, I do that every day, that you are occupying an office that belongs to the people of Zambia, not you yourself,” he said. “I’ve been observing over years how many ministers in previous governments…Even their style of walking you can see that this one thinks that it is his office. That office belongs to the people.”
He continued, saying: “as I said, State House and the grounds, everything belongs to the people.”
“And I’m very conscious of that every single day I walk in there that this is for the people of Zambia. I believe you can take a leaf from there,” President Hichilema advised ministers.
He further said Cabinet and provincial ministers should declare interest, as and when necessary.
“It is the standing declaration of interest where a particular activity, transaction requires us to disclose our interest. We should do so without being motivated, without being reminded – very important.”
President Hichilema also stressed that his team of ministers should put hard work as a central theme.
“Many of you know why I’m saying hard work three times. We’re not on holiday, we’re here to work,” President Hichilema said. “The new dawn administration must not only meet the people’s expectations; we must exceed those expectations.”
He also indicated that when one walks around in the streets of Lusaka and elsewhere, they hear many people saying: “we’re free again.”
“We expect this freedom to lead us into more entrepreneurial way of doing things. So, we can exceed expectations of the people,” he noted.
“You cannot offer social support to the needy, to the sick and the weak, to the orphans, to the retirees, without a functioning economy; let’s get that right.”
President Hichilema added that: “for only fruits of a successful economy will allow us to support the social sectors.”
“Even if your heart is good, which is true for all of us, you cannot share poverty. You cannot redistribute nothing. You can only help those who need help if you’ve created something. This is what the people of Zambia voted for us to do – to turn around the economy,” President Hichilema said. “What are you doing out there in your area, in your ministry? [It’s] to lower the cost of any contract so that the savings from there can go into economic growth.”
The President underscored that no minister should go and become a procurement officer in their minister.
“You are a minister, yes, you don’t do procurement. You cannot sit there [as] the procurement officer…” President Hichilema said. “Procuring a pen that costs K2 and they’re procuring it at K20! It is taking away an opportunity for a child to be in school.”
President Hichilema reiterated that inflated procurements must be frowned upon, in the public service.
“We are determined…You should be determined not to allow those issues [of inflated procurement] to happen,” President Hichilema said. “You cannot, my dear colleagues, under the CDF (Constituency Development Fund) or any public expenditure where as a simple farmer myself, I sink a 50-metre borehole at K20,000, and you in your ministry or in your province you are allowing boreholes for our women, to walk shorter distances to water sources, at K60,000 per borehole. Do we live in a different country? That’s what we were seeing in the last government.”
President Hichilema told Dr Miti that the issue of public procurement applied to those he supervises in the public service.
“You cannot say because a minister is not a procuring entity, it is me the PS (permanent secretary); I’ll buy boreholes at K60,000. What you will have done is to take away two boreholes from another village that needed water,” noted President Hichilema. “That, too, will not happen under this government.”