By Kombe Mataka, Fanny Kalonda
OPERATIONALISE the Office of Public Protector now, MDC secretary general Lucky Mulusa has told the UPND government.
He says the UPND government needs the Public Protector stressing that, “If we got our act right, we don’t even need the IMF because in fighting corruption and promoting efficiencies in running the government, we will make so much savings.”
Mulusa, a former State House assistant for project monitoring and implementation, said in an interview that there is urgent need establish an Act of parliament that will enable the operationalisation of the Office of the Public Protector.
“It is a must. It is a legislative sitting (the forthcoming session of the National Assembly). Very quickly Hon (Mulambo) Haimbe [the Minister of Justice] must take the bill to Cabinet and Cabinet must authorise it.
That is what the Zambian people want. That is what the employers of government want. From 2016, they were disappointed and they punished those who disappointed them,” Mulusa said.
“It must go to parliament for enactment, in an Act. The PF actually put a death nail in their coffin by their failure to operationalise the Office of the Public Protector.”
He said the operationalisation of the office would lead to saving a lot of resources from plunder.
“If we got our act right, we don’t even need the IMF because in fighting corruption and promoting efficiencies in running the government, we will make so much savings.
If they have allocated so much money to the Public Protector and then so many purchases of vehicles, equipment, allowances what what, how many clinics would have been built? If they disagreed with Zambian people [on having the Public Protector] then let them abolish this office. But it is a necessity,” Mulusa observed.
“A discourse like this one that myself, Madam (Caroline) Sokoni (the Public Protector) Brebner Changala and the late Mike Mulongoti, started will help push it to priority list. It will be very helpful. You see, when people are asking questions and government officials choose to ignore them or government officials lie in the way they are responding to people’s concerns, people get frustrated. People should have disclosure.
They should go to the Public Protector who is funded and who has capacity to investigate everyone including the sitting President. They will take their findings to parliament and parliament will pass a resolution and people will be sanctioned and people will be cautioned.
People will have something to fear. Get the yellow books, see how much allocation has been given to the Office of the Public Protector in the past five to six years. It will show you the wastage that is why I am saying operationalise it.”
And Mulusa said what existed under the PF was collective irresponsibility and not collective responsibility.
He said when he featured on Hot FM breakfast programme that a cabal of criminals was created in the PF government.
“We created a cabal of criminals. The whole government machinery just became criminals stealing from Zambians,” Mulusa said.
“There are noticeable attempts to try and create productive outcomes out of governance and that is a little grace. I I would encourage all Zambians to play our role to ensure the government succeeds.
We are on the right trajectory and I am happy Zambians are talking when they see something wrong. It is better that the government engages them so that we live as one big happy family.”
Mulusa, who discussed his sacking from State House by former president Edgar Lungu after he opposed the purchase of the infamous fire tenders at a cost of $42 million, said he was proud that he had highlighted some ills observed in the PF before he was fired.
“I disagreed with with that purchase and it was collective irresponsibility and I was not going to be part of collective irresponsibility. When I was fired, I felt a sense of relief. That sense of relief was very strange but it was preservation for destiny.
I would have been as irrelevant as most of them are now. Most of their political careers have actually ended,” he said.
“My advice to the PF is to actually to disband. That unit is what Zambians should never see. The best is to disband and join other political parties and learn some decency in administering public welfare.”
Mulusa said that the PF ruled on the concept of arrogance of incumbency to commit wrongdoing.
“I warned them. They were being arrogant. I told them this arrogance of incumbency will cost you elections in 2021. I said that on UNZA radio immediately after passing that comment (on fire tenders) because I knew…was not going to last. But I needed to provide some relief in government,” he said.
And asked why he was supporting the government decision to go for a IMF bailout package when he had opposed it when he served as member of parliament, Mulusa said “I was calling for us not to go to IMF to avoid this kind of maladministration in order to properly grow the economy and we didn’t need to borrow.
“The situation is like when you die, the next stage is rotting and unfortunately we died. We just have to go to IMF. We cannot avoid it. It is an investment in perception. It creates some level of confidence those that will lend us money now know that we will not be reckless in the way we are spending money.
And that it has reduced the risk of you failing to pay but I see that because of conditions that come with the IMF, I see that we now have free education which the IMF may not be comfortable with because they would like to see as much money as possible ending up in the coffers for the economy,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mulusa said Zambians paid a huge price for entrusting the PF with the management of their affairs.
He said the PF regime should have never happened to Zambia.
Mulusa said projects in the previous regime were overpriced.
“Yes the projects were overpriced. The first overpricing was actually at tender stage. And the projects would be overpriced in the sense that it was a top-down approach. Assuming there was an unsolicited bid from a particular vendor who said we can build you a modern airport at so much and we can source the money for you and all you need is to sign for that loan and you agree.
Meanwhile, there could be other talks behind the scenes of helping a political party in power. So all So all those get priced in, the kickbacks and all that stuff,” he said.
“The first example is the our KKIA (Kenneth Kaunda International Airport), which is a scandal. The initial one was 365 million to pay for a bigger airport than we have ended up with. Government first paid like 25 million and at the implementation stage, all the Zambian subcontractors were kicked out and the scope of work was reduced. But the money ballooned to about $385 million and I keep wondering how?”
Mulusa continued: “When I started monitoring that project, that is when I started asking questions. And everywhere I went, when I ask the questions to the stakeholders and the Chinese, everyone was mute. Until someone told me that if ‘you are asking questions and no one is answering the question, you have to let go’. He said that was a warning.”
“If there was the Office of the Public Protector, then that issue was going to go to parliament,” he said.
Mulusa said there was serious need by President Hichilema to continue being tough on the need for prudence in management of resources in the construction sector.
“We had the Italians who wanted to build us the dual carriageway between Ndola and Lusaka of 320 kilometres. They told us 360 million Euros and the money was there and everything was agreed. But when I left State House, they announced that the project but it was 1. 2 billion. That shows you the overpricing. What was it, what made the price to be that high because part of the roads were there and just needed rehabilitation?” wondered Mulusa.