INFORMATION minister Chushi Kasanda says government’s position on the fight against corruption remains unchanged.
And Zambia Council for Social Development board chairperson Mayamba Chiputa says there is lack of interest, knowledge and skills among local communities to influence budgeting processes and other developmental initiatives.
During a media engagement on the 2022 national budget and citizens’ participation in the budgeting process, Kasanda said investigations into any suspected corrupt practices by anyone in the past, present or future, is a duty of relevant law enforcement agencies as mandated by law.
“Corruption delays and derails development. This is why we should spare no effort, as citizens, in fighting the scourge,” she said.
Kasanda said the K173 billion 2022 budget represents the UPND government’s commitment to translate its plans and promises into better lives for the people.
She said through the budget, the government was taking resources to the people so that citizens themselves, decide and implement their developmental priorities.
Kasanda said key among the provisions in the budget was the allocation of over K25 million Constituency Development Fund (CDF) per constituency, which was unprecedented in the history of the country.
“As you may be aware, CDF was erratic and I can attest to this as I am from a rural constituency,” she said.
Kasanda said the government’s resolve was to enable citizens participate effectively in developmental programmes at the local level.
“For this to happen, people need to be empowered with information on the budget. This will not only enhance their participation in the planning and budgeting processes, but also promote transparency and accountability in the utilisation of public funds,” she said.
Kasanda said commended Zambia Council for Social Development and its partners for organising the meeting to orient the media on budgeting, with particular focus on the national planning and budgeting Act no. 1 of 2020.
“Notable about the Act is the fact that it provides clear steps in the engagement and consultation of the people in budget formulation, starting from the district to the national level,” she said. “Further, the Act is anchored on the need to ensure ownership, coordination, transparency and accountability in budgeting and management of national resources.”
Kasanda said it was important that the media understood the law so that they were able to explain it to the public.
She said the media cannot inform unless they are informed.
“They cannot educate unless they are educated, hence the importance of this meeting here today. This brings me to the project ‘Beyond the numbers: making the money work for the citizens,’ under which this meeting is being held here today. The media is usually quick to report figures in the budget without looking at the intent and impact of the figures in changing people’s lives. They also report the budget as an event at the time the Minister of Finance is unveiling it in Parliament. Thereafter rarely do the media make follow-ups on the allocations in the budget from the time the funds are released to the intended beneficiaries,” Kasanda noted. “In the 2022 budget, as an example, government has committed huge sums of money going direct to the people to improve their welfare. It is government’s desire that the media changes this narrative by trailing the budget implementation from the time funds are released to the time they are spent on intended projects.”
She said the project was important in promoting an analytical and watchful eye of the media on how public funds are utilised.
Kasanda said that way, the media would also be contributing positively to the fight against corruption.
And Chiputa said the project was a joint initiative by Oxfam, NGOCC and ZCSD, which is funded by the European Union.
He said the overall objective was to promote greater accountability and better public service delivery through increased capacity and engagement of citizens and civil society organisations in the formulation, enactment, implementation, and oversight of national budget.
Chiputa said the project would be implemented in five districts in 13 constituencies across the country.
Chiputa said the project was focused on ensuring communities in the targeted districts had an opportunity to interact with relevant stakeholders in the budgeting cycle’s value chain.
“However, most citizens have lagged behind. There is lack of interest, knowledge and skills among local communities to influence budgeting processes and other developmental initiatives,” he said.
Chiputa said ZCSD was conducting the training for identified media houses to effectively cover budget related programmes and promote media monitoring.
He said the media was an important ally, especially, in the wake of COVID-19 when virtual programming had become more important.
Chiputa said the media had a duty to inform and educate citizens on developmental issues as it promotes greater accountability and increased capacity and engagement of citizens and civil society organisations in the formulation, enactment, implementation, and oversight of the national budget.