MOF TRANSFERS ARE STRANGE…if someone messes up, you put them on suspension and investigate – Kateka
By Fanny Kalonda
New Heritage Party president Chishala Kateka says it is surprising government has decided to transfer officers being investigated in the Ministry of Finance.
“I’m not a lawyer but it’s a form of corruption. It’s also theft by public servant because you are stealing from your boss which is the Zambia taxpayer,” she said.
Kateka said if the government goes the transfer route instead of suspending people under investigations, it will be difficult to fight corruption in the civil service.
She said K500 million is not small money. Kateka said there is need to investigate “but officers involved should first be suspended and returned after proving they are innocent”.
“So we heard that story. At first we heard that they had been fired but now we have heard that ‘no, it’s not true they have been transferred’ which for us is a little bit surprising. If in any company somebody is being investigated, they are put on suspension. They are not transferred to another department anytime but obviously this is a decision that the government has decided to take,” Kateka said. “I don’t know if there are other members of staff that are involved. But the government has categorically said ‘no we have only transferred them’, which for us is a little bit confusing in that if there has been corruption and this is something that has happened over the years, if somebody messes up, you transfer them and you put them in the foreign service… So you do something like that, that’s why you’ll find that we find it so difficult to deal with this issue of corruption. If somebody does something like that you put them on suspension, you investigate the case. And if you find them innocent you bring them back, pay them what is due to them because they you know they didn’t deserve… But if you find them guilty, take appropriate action.”
Kateka said the MoF issue is corruption and “it is surprising that officers involved have just been transferred”.
“If there has been an audit and they have been found to be wanting, by the way it’s not just from the reading of the case, it’s not just the people that have misappropriated funds, but it’s also, if my job is to make sure that these things are approved, so I didn’t do my job diligently and as a result of that the government lost 500 million, I should be taken into account as well. So this investigation needs to be thorough. We don’t want to talk too much about it because it’s an ongoing process. But we just feel that it’s a bit strange that people are just transferred when an amount of 500 million is mentioned. That is not a small amount,” Kateka said when she featured on KBN TV. “Well, it’s definitely corruption. And I’m not a lawyer, but it’s a form of corruption but it’s also theft by public servant because you are stealing from your boss which is the Zambia taxpayer. You know, by means which are not legal obviously.”
She also questioned the government’s quietness on certain matters of national interest citing the fertiliser scandal, and the awarding of contracts citing Africa Life Financial Services.
“We are of the view that corruption both old and current and if there is some to come, all of it must be fought against. There are things that we hear about that have happened, the famous fertiliser scandal that have happened in this dispensation. The fertiliser scandal, you know, where no one has ever said anything about it. It’s just there, every so often somebody mentions it and you look at it and you say, ‘oh yeah, there is nothing there’. And now there’s this African Life situation that has been mentioned, awarding contracts to a company without declaring interest, because the President has shares in that company and there’s no declaration (declaring interest). So those things must all come to the to the top not just the old,” Kateka said. “The silence is what I’m laughing [at] because in the fertiliser scandal, there was silence. In this particular matter, there is silence. What does that show us? It shows us that here is a government that when they do something they feel that it doesn’t really matter what you think. That is what it portrays. It doesn’t really matter what you think and it doesn’t matter what you say. We the government have done this, and you people can say what you like. It’s an arrogance if you like.”
She wondered if the government “is just arrogant or do not have a proper communication strategy”.
“It is like they are arrogant because they have done something, and you have called them out and they just ignore you. They just look down on you. And they think to themselves that it doesn’t really matter what you think because there’s nothing you can do about it. For me, that’s the interpretation,” Kateka said.
“So it could be the arrogance or it could be that they’ve got very poor communication skills. They don’t know how to communicate whatever it is to the Zambian people. Or maybe, you know, so the arrogance is they don’t see any need to communicate. Or they don’t know how to communicate. Now in this particular case, in fact of the other cases, when something is brought up by the Zambians or concerned stakeholders Zambians are stakeholders, opposition political parties are stakeholders, and they do speak on behalf of the Zambians – they raise very pertinent issues. You know, because that’s what we are here for. And when we do raise these issues we expect an answer. We expect at least an acknowledgment of the issue and then an explanation so that people are comfortable. There are some things that you know, we know that this one day they could have explained this particular issue in this manner. But because of their poor communication, ability to communicate adequately or properly, they don’t.”
Kateka added that not communicating would make Zambians suspicious of the UPND government as it shows lack of transparency.
“But they do have a government spokesperson. They have a government spokesperson. But you see when you don’t communicate with people who raise the issues, you simply exhibit a lack of transparency in what you’re doing, and as you can see, the trust between the Zambian people and the government, this gap is widening. People are just looking at them with suspicion,” she said. “They do something and then people begin to suspect otherwise. If they explained and say ‘look, these two planes had gone for whatever we had no choice but to hire’, that’s an explanation. If that is the explanation give it, give the reason. So explain so that Zambian people’s hearts are at peace.”
Meanwhile, Kateka said the arrest of PF presidential hopeful Chishimba Kambwili is abuse of the public order Act.
“It is unfortunate that something like that is happening in this dispensation. We consider that to be an abuse of the public order Act. We feel that as Zambians we need to take heed of what is happening in that space. Because if we are not careful when you see, when somebody does something against someone you don’t like, and I’m using that because I’ve heard a lot of negative sentiments concerning ba (Mr) Kambwili. So when the government does something against him even if there is injustice, you think to yourself, yeah it is Chishimba Kambwili, it’s okay for him to do this. But we must go by the principle. Let’s follow the principle,” said Kateka. “Then the next person will be another person who will be treated in the same way. What are we going to say which could be me, I could be put in a cell? So we must learn to differentiate between principle, this is a principle of the matter. And if there’s injustice in this case, don’t look at the person being targeted, look at the principle. We must always do the right thing. So if abuse of the public order Act was wrong under the PF, it is still wrong under the UPND government.”