Chipoka promises ‘no cadre influence’ in public offices

COMMERCE minister Chipoka Mulenga says under the UPND Alliance administration, there will be no cadre influence in the operations of technocrats.

Speaking to management at the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) and the Business Regulatory Review Agency (BRRA) on Tuesday, Mulenga assured public officers that the ruling party would not allow cadres to dictate their operations.

He said the UPND government had come to make a difference and demonstrate what people-centred governance looks like.

Mulenga, who continues to familiarise himself with various government agencies under his ministry, invited the opposition to join in doing the right thing while emphasising that time management when serving the public is paramount.

“08:00 hours is not the time to walk in the office but the time to pick up your pen and likewise 17:00 hours is not the time to walk out of the gate but to drop the pen. In this new dawn government things will be different. I personally know what time to report for work but I don’t know when to leave,” Mulenga said.

He said the new dawn administration was a hands-on government and urged public officials to advise him on how best to serve them.

Mulenga challenged PACRA to take advantage of the media to inform their would-be clients of the products and services offered by the agency.

He said from the agency’s presentation, there were more activities and services offered by PACRA but that the agency did not utilise the emerging media and information technology platforms to engage citizens.

Mulenga further urged PACRA not to be in a hurry to penalise defaulters but engage them to see what operational challenges they are facing.

“PR manager, you have a very huge task to reach out to your clients. One thing you must be assured of is that we are a government which is here to make your life and that of Zambians easier than it has been. Our commitment is that we serve the Zambian people with almost interest. If you have noticed each time the President is speaking his major interest is the Zambian people. Let us be alive to the fact that we are servants to the Zambian people,” he said. “For me to address your concerns rightly I need to have an open door policy. When you have a concern, please reach out to me. Be ready for me, to engage me, at all times but if you are not ready, I am sorry I will be on hand to engage you all the time and demand things from you.”

BRRA executive director Sharon Sichilongo outlined the institution’s challenges.

She said low staffing levels has hampered the institution. She said whereas the agency’s organisational structure has a staff compliment of 42, only six positions are filled.
Sichilongo also noted inadequate funding to the agency.

“Since the operationalisation of the Agency, its programmes and activities have expanded without corresponding increase in staffing levels. The current funding levels are inadequate to enable recruitment of additional staff to match the workload,” she said.

Sichilongo added that the agency has operated without a board since 2018 when the tenure of the previous one expired.

“The absence of the board is a concern that is continually highlighted in audit reports. The agency still faces resistance from some stakeholders in the implementation of the provision of the business regulatory Act. To mitigate this, the agency has been engaging stakeholders on a one to one basis to improve compliance with the business regulatory Act by these stakeholders,” she said.

Sichilongo however said BRRA acknowledged the new government’s commitment to reduce transaction costs of doing business by streamlining the number of licences and permits required to operate a business.

“Government intends to reduce the time it takes to obtain licences and permits as well as promote the use of electronic registration and payment systems. This commitment to improving the business regulatory environment gives the BRRA renewed dedication to its mandate of improving the quality of business regulations as well as developing and coordinating the implementation of interventions aimed at improving delivery of regulatory services,” said Sichilongo.

Meanwhile, PACRA chief executive officer Anthony Bwembya informed the minister that the service fees collected by the agency increased from K78 million in 2018 to K92.4 million in 2020.

He said the increase represented a growth of 18 per cent.

Additionally, Bwembya said for the period January to July 2021, the agency exceeded its target by K3.5 million.

He noted that like many other agencies, PACRA was affected by a number of challenges.

Bwembya named the COVID-19 pandemic as having adversely affected the operations of the agency.

Other challenges include prolonged revision of laws stating that legal drafters have had a backlog of legislation.

Bwembya also informed Mulenga and his entourage that there is limited office and registry space at PACRA.

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