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Corruption in Zambia - The Quest for a Successful Struggle

Corruption in Zambia - The Quest for a Successful Struggle

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Published by Zambian-Economist

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Published by: Zambian-Economist on Dec 15, 2011
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Ideas for a better Zambia 
The election of the
Patriotic Front 
has thrust the fight against corruption firmly back on the national
agenda. An agenda built around the commitment to “zero tolerance” on corruption in all areas of 
national life. President Michael Sata set out this direction in his inaugural speech to Parliament
I am sounding a timely warning that my Government has taken a zero tolerance against corruption in both the public and private sectors. Those who allow themselves to engage incorruption must know that they are taking a serious risk and that once caught they will be prosecuted irrespective of their status or position.
This new direction presents both an opportunity and challenge. It is an opportunity because we nowhave a clean start that appears to be winning accolades, as illustrated by the timely decision by theEuropean Investment Bank (EIB) to resume funding to Zambia. The EIB observed,
We are pleased tonote the public statements by President Sata and his Government, declaring the fight against 
corruption a key priority…. [and] the numerous institutional changes aimed at strengthening
corporate governance; including the changes in leadership at both ZESCO and the Anti-Corruption
Commission….In view of these developments, I am pleased to inform you that the EuropeanInvestment Bank has decided to lift restrictions on EIB’s activities in the public sector in Zambia.” 
It is a challenge because we are still in the embryonic stage of this renewed quest. Zambia isawakening from an MMD era of unprecedented scandals in our young history. The inevitable
question on every Zambian’s mind
is: will this renewed fight succeed where others have failed somiserably?
Defining success
The answer to that question naturally depends on what is meant
by “success”. What
are we aimingfor? The new Government defines it
as “zero tolerance”, meaning no corruption taking place in
every sphere of Zambian life. But it should immediately be obvious that though the slogan isnecessary in galvanising our attitude (and gaining international confidence) it tells us nothing aboutwhat realistically we are working to. I
ndeed, there’s a danger that without a proper defined criteria
of success the slogan may be hostage to fortune.This is particularly the case because the multifaceted nature of corruption
means it will always behere. It is part of the total depravity of man. More importantly even if we are able to heroicallyreduce it to zero, it may not be financially or economically sound to do so. By all means let us fightfor zero corruption, but at what cost? Therefore
a pressing need in this early and enthusiasticstage the new struggle against plunder to develop deliberate and specific targets that the newGovernment should be aiming for to allow citizens to properly hold it to account on the level of progress being made.As a starting point we should be clear that measures of success must be specific and not the vaguepromises we were accustomed to under the failed and corrupt regime of the past. Statements such
“corruption is reducing” or “that institution is back on track”
do. Let us be clear about whatsort of corruption we have in mind and where our efforts to should focus on. Zambia has very littlefinancial resources. We need to be intelligent in our fight against corruption.Economic intuition suggests that it is more efficient that the fight against corruption focuses initiallyon areas of corruption which may be more harmful in terms of growth and equity. Corruption is
Ideas for a better Zambia 
2likely to be more detrimental where it is likely to disproportionately affect the poor compared to therich, leading to larger income inequalities over time. Corruption is likely to be most harmful where it
“hits people twice”
e.g. in hospitals, schools and police. Corruption is likely to be more damaging tosociety where it affects those institutions that are there to prevent it. Defining these areas asspecific targets to reduce corruption would refocus our struggle and deliver tangible results that canbe verified by all Zambians.The indicators of success must be
. The problem with the MMD fight against corruptionis that it had no real agreed measurable indicators. How do we know corruption has reduced inMwansabombwe? How do we assess whether the civil service has increased in corruption? Keyparameters must be agreed that are routinely measured and tracked by a specific publiclyaccountable body. These benchmarks on national performance against corruption would includelocal and sector based perception indicators, financial leakage, number of arrests, timeliness of corrupt cases in court, etc. Such data should be kept in public and routinely updated document. Inshort, underpinning the struggle against corruption must be a clear public service agreementsupported by hard and routinely collected data.Of course it is not good measuring things that we are unlikely to do anything about. So it is vital thatsuch targets are based on policy goals that are
. Realistic indicators of success give impetus to Government to strive to bring them about and allow the public to be justified in their disgust when such targets are not being met. People will not care about anyoutcome that they know full well will not be delivered. We must move from hollow promises of abetter tomorrow to more timely and realistic commitments e.g.
“traffic police bribery reduced by10% by July 2012”. These are the sort of milestones that we
desperately need.
Prerequisites for success
Of course measuring success is only the beginning. Ultimately success in fighting corruption willdepend on Government developing the necessary conditions to breed success. This is particularlycrucial in the embryonic stage. There are three key indispensible conditions.First, there
s need for sustained policy
. The fight against corruption must be a truly people
driven agenda. A “Zambian Project”, not just the vision of the person in State House
. One of thetragedies of the Mwanawasa administration is that the fight against corruption was personalisedthrough Presidential Executive Orders which rightly conveyed the impression that it was a personalcreation designed to fulfil whatever Mr Mwanawasa had in mind. Creating private presidentialarmies to fight corruption is not good governance, no matter how successful those armies might be.Similarly, reliance on foreign donors for such an important struggle undermines
sovereignty. Let us fight corruption, but let us not sell our country in the process. The new PFgovernment deserves applaud, for now, for
reinstating the Task Force and shunning foreignfunding in this area. Zambia must always bear 100% the burden of delivering justice because it is thefoundation of our society. If the foundation is on borrowed capital, will the house stand? TheGovernment must now go beyond that by creating an adequate legislative and political frameworkthat will truly put Zambia on a credible and sustained path towards a low corruption and highgrowth equilibrium.The second condition is financial
. The fight against corruption must provide value formoney over the medium to long term. It is true that there's no price that can be put on rule of lawand justice in general, but we have to remember that the fight against corruption wont by
 deliver these things. It is only a part, albeit an important one. That means that any fight againstcorruption must, like all forms of policy, be undertaken within the context of an efficient and costcutting government, with an eye on spending money where it is most needed.
Ideas for a better Zambia 
3Over the last two decades Zambians have seen initiative after initiative undertaken without beingsufficiently underpinned by effective cost benefit analysis. This has led to grossly inefficientarrangements whose costs, if ever quantified, would outweigh benefits. Zambia is a country thatrelies on donor funding and external borrowing to feed its people. Each K1 being spent must rightlybe evaluated against competing alternatives. More importantly, if the fight against corruption is tosucceed the supply of funding must be sustainable. I
t’s the
irony of life that we need money to stopmoney being lost. A new strategy for corruption must therefore be underpinned by the need fordelivering solutions that that are economically efficient.The third condition is that the fight against corruption should be forged as
 part of a holistic and broad 
struggle for development
. Corruption is best addressed as part of a wider debate on what wethink are key constraints to
development. The days of long running editorials on oneperson are a distraction to real debate, which should focus on how we can make our institutionsbetter and indifferent to the personalities of the day. Zambia's number one problem is that we havea "poor institutional framework
that exists only to serve the rich and corrupt elite. A credibleinstitutional framework goes beyond simply tackling corruption. It is about introducing strongergovernance and accountability structures. Participatory democracy and effective decentralisationare among those things that have been empirically verified to work. We simply cannot expect to winthe fight against corruption if power is unnecessarily centralised.
Delivering success
When the conditions are right, it becomes easier to take forward policies that deliver results. A toppriority is that we need new policies that encourage greater
of corrupt activities. Highlevels of detection act as a deterrence to would be perpetrators. In short, information is vital in thestruggle for corruption.The prime source of such information is
whistle blowers
. The existing legislation on legal protectionfor whistle blowers unfortunately contains significant deficiencies
that urgently need to becorrected by the new Government. Although the current legislation claims to provide for "aframework within which public interest disclosure shall be independently and rigorously dealt with",it is quite clear that the framework is particularly inadequate in so far as it relates to investigatingagencies. The legislation requires investigating authorities to investigate themselves which clearlydoes not encourage whistle blowing. Similarly, the current legislation contains no monetaryincentive or financial reward for whistle-blowing, further diminishing of any prospect of whistleblowing.The media has an important role in disseminating information. The media such as newspapers,television or radio are useful and often necessary methods of publicising corruption to theelectorate, to empower the community to punish corrupt officials. A key proposal therefore is thatnew Government should formally privatise Government controlled papers
Empirical evidence
 demonstrates that a government dominated press is positively associated with corruption. A freepress provides greater information than a government controlled press to the public on governmentand public sector misbehaviour including corruption. The best way to encourage corruptiontherefore is to ensure Government owns the television and owns the main newspapers. World over,it is accepted: if you want to know how serious a Government is in fighting corruption, just look athow much media it controls.Further media reforms must include having an established and trusted media outlet in thecommunity and using media that can best reach the community based on its education level. Ourlocal radio stations should be supported as avenues for greater and more localised detectors and

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