Corruption fight impossible without free media – UPND
By Malawo Malawo
MITETE UPND member of parliament Misheck Mutelo says the fight against corruption is impossible without a functional free media.
And Jack Mwiimbu says it is sickening that the Anti-Corruption Commission is being used to humiliate people who fall out of favour with the government.
Debating the 2017 estimates of expenditure for the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) moved by Chililabombwe PF member of parliament Richard Musukwa, the acting leader of government business, in Parliament on Thursday, Mutelo observed that a country where the media was highly controlled by the government could not fight corruption at all.
“To fight corruption, there is one big tool needed [which] is information. You can also not have information if you do not have whistle-blowers and if these are not given incentives or if they are not protected by any law, the information will not be reaching them. Where you have information, then the platform to fight corruption must be the media. If the media is not free, then you can’t fight corruption,” said Mutelo.
“World over, where you don’t have a free media, you’ll never be able to fight corruption. If you control all the televisions stations, if you control all the radio stations and you ban private newspapers, you’ll never be able to fight corruption.”
Mwiimbu, who is Monze Central UPND member of parliament, noted that those in leadership did not need to grieve about wanton corruption being perpetrated by their colleagues in the executive.
He also wondered why the ACC was only seen to be investigating people who were anti-government.
“I’m particularly surprised to hear the sentiments being raised by the [acting] leader of government business by stating that the government is directing the Anti-Corruption Commission to take special and specific measures pertaining to the eradication of corruption in the country. [But] we are all aware that the Anti-Corruption Commission is supposed to be independent and it is not supposed to be influenced by those in the executive or those in the legislature. But we are now being told that the executive will be giving instructions on how to proceed with issues of tackling corruption in this country,” Mwiimbu debated.
“We are also surprised to hear public pronouncements by the leadership of the executive where they have been lamenting that there are so many ministers who, in their accounts, have so much money which they cannot account [for]. The leadership of government is not supposed to lament. If they are aware of corrupt activities being perpetrated by those in the executive, action must be taken. If the leadership starts lamenting, it just shows that there is no political will to fight the scourge. We are also perplexed to realise that the Anti-Corruption Commission always reacts to the sentiments of those in leadership! We have witnessed of late where the President of the country lamented and after lamenting, we saw the ACC scampering, waking up from slumber as if they didn’t know what was going on. Why should they rise and take appropriate action because the President has spoken? Why is it that the Anti-Corruption Commission only investigates those who are seen to have fallen out of favour in government? Why do they follow only those who have left government?”
He added that the ACC needed to work professionally and prudently in order to erase the negative public perception it had created for itself.
“There is a perception, madam Chairperson, that only those who are not on the right side of leadership are followed. Why should that be the case? They are talking about investigating those who are living outside the normal lifestyle or the cost of living but we are aware of junior officers in government who have children in expensive schools in Lusaka where they are paying US$20, 000 per term! Why are they not investigating them? They are not investigating them because they think those are in the seats of power; they will only investigate them when they leave government. It just shows that the Anti-Corruption [Commission] currently is being used to target those who have fallen out of favour in government; it shouldn’t be that way.”
And Mwiimbu advised that no ACC official should sit on particular procurement committees in order for the fight against corruption in the procurement sector to be meaningful.
“The government is aware that in the procurement system in this country, there is a lot of corruption. Why is it that every one of us here has been raising issues pertaining to the road contracts that have been awarded? A lot of MPs have been complaining pertaining to the [quality] of road works that have been done in their constituencies,” said Mwiimbu.
“Those who condone corruption are also corrupt. In this country it appears as if those who are corrupt are the ones who are being appreciated. Let’s eradicate this perception that only those who are not in government are followed by the ACC [because] that perception is not good for the country.”
Maxus Ng’onga (Kaputa PF), Chinga Miyutu (Kalabo Central UPND) and Howard Kunda (Muchinga MMD) are the other members of parliament who spoke in support of the motion, leading to the approval of the K76, 133, 279 allocated to the ACC.