Sunday 25 December 2011

Seeing The Importance Of The Post Editorial of 25 December 2011 We Share It With You

IT will take us a very long time to move the great majority of our people out of
poverty if we do not drastically improve the way we manage our country's limited
resources.As Tony Cotter, the Irish Ambassador to Zambia, has advised,
we need to improve and strengthen our public financial and management
procurement systems to ensure accountability, efficiency, effectiveness and
orderliness.We need to make the best use of whatever financial resources
we are generating locally and whatever we are given by others through grants or
loans. We have the potential to develop. But potential has to be efficiently and
effectively exploited to be of value. Having the potential is one thing and
being able to develop out of that potential is another.Potential is not
development. We should not cheat ourselves that simply because we have all these
minerals and other natural resources, then we are rich. But here we are with all
our rivers full of water throughout the year and passing near our major towns.
But our taps are dry.Most of our people still live without efficient
water supply. They have to draw water from wells. This is simply because we are
not able to exploit the water resources of our country for the benefit of our
people.We are not able to pump water from these rivers into our homes.
In the abundance of water, the great majority of our people still don't have
access to clean running water. And this is one of the Millennium Development
Goals that we should be achieving by 2015.When you have little, you use
it efficiently to survive. You cannot afford to be wasteful when you don't have
much. Sometimes we behave like we have too many resources, like we live in a
rich country. Look at our government expenditure! In many respects, it is higher
than that of many rich countries.Our public officers travel in more
expensive luxurious cabins than their counterparts in rich countries. They also
stay in more expensive hotels than people of similar rank from rich countries.
Our public officers also receive much higher travel allowances which they don't
have to account for than their counterparts in rich countries.For
instance, our public officers are driven in more expensive automobiles than
their counterparts in India. Yet India is far much more a richer country than
Zambia. They even manufacture automobiles and have got transnational companies
that own expensive international automotive brands.But Indian ministers
and other government officials drive very small cars. If one wants an expensive
automobile, there is no need to push it on the taxpayer. One should buy it for
himself and the taxpayer should only meet thenecessary expenses, and not the
extravagance, of our public servants. Our costs of running government are simply
too high. There is too much wastage and too many unjustified
allowances.Our public servants have gone to the extent of holding
routine meetings far away from their stations in expensive hotels or lodges just
to earn allowances. Meetings that can be held in their boardrooms in Lusaka are
taken to the expensive hotels of Livingstone. Why should this be so? Why this
extravagance? Why this wastage?Our government procurement system needs
urgent review because we are paying far more than we should pay for goods and
services to the government. Those who do business with government are really
cashing in.We have departments in the same ministry acquiring stationery
at totally different prices. Why should this be so? There are too many middlemen
doing business with government who are simply buying things from South Africa,
Dubai or China and reselling them to government at exorbitant prices.We
cannot claim to know how best the government procurement system should be
arranged. But it is not difficult for us to know when things are being done
totally the wrong way. People are simply ripping off government. We have public
servants running small tuntembas under names of relatives and they use these to
do business with government at wild mark-ups.Even the practice of
producing two or three or so proforma invoices is useless because those in
charge of procurement just stage-manage the process, they manipulate things and
in the end, the business goes to them or those whom they benefit something from.
Goods or services that should cost the government amillion kwacha end up
costing the government millions more.Why should we be so wasteful when
even those with far much greater resources do not waste them this way? In fact,
the rich countries are more thrift, more accountable when it comes to public
expenditure. They don't waste public money the way we do. They don't fail to
account for public funds they way our public officers do and get away with
it.Look at the size of delegations we send to handle meetings abroad!
Instead ofgoing for the minimum, we always tend to go for the maximum
delegation allowed. Why? Is it simply because of allowances? And look at the
behaviour of our public officers at such conferences or meetings.Some of
them would only be coming back to the hotels from shopping when others are
coming out of the conference sessions. The only part of the conferences they
don't miss are dinners and other evening entertainment. We have even senior
officers who travel abroad to attend seminars, workshops or conferences that
should be attended by very low officers, by clerks.And when they get
there and find that it's a gathering for clerks, they simply resort to shopping
and other entertainment. This is how the taxpayers' money of this poor country
is being wasted.It is very difficult to understand why our government
should be buying such expensive automobiles. Every other expensive car you see
in town belongs to the government. What is the justification for this
extravagance, excessive love for luxurious automobiles? If there is proper
justification, we will understand. There are certain luxurious cars that are
needed for diplomatic assignments.We have no argument with this. We also
have officers who upon transfer to another town are accommodated in hotels for
very long periods. This is unnecessary expenditure.To all this, add the
retirement benefits given by the Chiluba regime to all sorts of people. Every
former president has to be built a house! Every former speaker has to be built a
house! Every former this and that has to be given this and that! Why should this
be so?Don't they know where banks are to go and get a mortgage? A man
becomes president at 70 or so and after being president for three years, he
loses an election and is forced into political retirement and the taxpayer
should build him a house! For what? What was he doing and where was he living
for 70 years?Why can't he go back where he came from? Why didn't he
build a house for himself? Of course, there are exceptions to everything. And
the exception to this would be the first leaders of our country like comrade
Kenneth Kaunda who had no opportunity to do anything else in their lives. They
entered the independence struggle at a very early age and stayed in public
service for the most effective years of their lives without giving themselves
any undue material advantage.These deserve the taxpayers' support and it
is justifiable for them to be given appropriate retirement homes. Why should
someone build Rupiah Banda a house with all that he could build for himself in
less than three years? This is a waste of taxpayers' money that needs urgent
review.We are not against anyone living well. And in saying this, we are
not against any individual. We are simply saying that this system of rewarding
our public servants is beyond the ability or capacity of our taxpayers. And let
us find a more justifiable way, a more meaningful way to remunerate those who
serve us. And let us find the best way to keep government expenditure under
control.Let us find a way to combat waste and practice strict economy,
that is the policy of building up our country through diligence and frugality.
We must pay special attention to economy.The principle of diligence and
frugality should be observed in everything. Thrift should be the guiding
principle in our government expenditure and waste should be a serious
crime.A dangerous tendency has shown itself of late among many of our
political leaders and other key public officers -an unwillingness to share the
joys and hardships of the masses, a concern for personal gain and luxurious
living.This needs to be stopped if we may harbor any hope of getting the
great majority of our people out of poverty.

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