Corruption, broadly defined as abuse of entrusted power for private and personal gain, is becoming more frequent and is considered to be one of the greatest ethical challenges of the contemporary world. It is internationally recognized that corruption impedes economic development, undermines stability and erodes trust in public institutions and undermines good government, fundamentally distorts public policy, leads to the misallocation of resources, harms the both public and private sector development and particularly hurts the poor.
Zambia ranks 96th – toward the middle among 180 countries worldwide – on Transparency International’s 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index, placing it 15th from the top (best) among sub-Saharan African countries. While the government has created a National Program on Governance and anti-corruption committees in all of its institutions, the country’s Bribe Payers Index has made headlines with reported increases in the prevalence of bribe payments. For 2017, the Zambian Financial Intelligence Centre (2018) received reports of suspected corruption worth about U.S. $622 million, many of them linked to public procurement contracts. In January, Foreign Minister Harry Kalaba cited slow government action against corruption as a reason for his resignation; even though some suspect Kalaba’s decision was a political manoeuvre rather than a genuine protest, it emphasizes the high-profile role that corruption has assumed in Zambia’s domestic policy narrative.
In spite of progress made, corruption remains a serious issue in Zambia, affecting the lives of ordinary citizens and their access to public services. Petty corruption remains widespread and relatively stable over time. Every year, millions of dollars’ worth of public money are either misappropriated, stolen or grossly mismanaged in the country. Financial irregularities seem to be increasing exponentially from year to year with allegedly little action taken against perpetrators found on the auditor’s report.
In its report, Zambia’s anti-corruption managed to arrest 33 people over various corruption offenses in the first half of 2019, with seven eventually being convicted country wide. These arrests emanated from a total of 417 reports of suspected corruption during the first half of the year, out of which 248 were found to be non-corruption related while others were referred to other law enforcement agencies for further investigations.
The Zambia Anti-Corruption has vowed to promote and strengthen collaboration and networking with other stakeholders in the fight against corruption. It remains to be seen if the agency will be decisive, professional and non-partisan in its conduct in dealing with perpetrators of corruption.
In neo-patrimonial states, power and resources typically remain highly concentrated at the central level, providing the ruling elite with discretion to allocate public resources to reward political loyalty and support. Zambia remains characterised by informal political processes of patronage and corruption, where foreign aid and public resources can be misused to sustain incumbent and patronage politics linked to the executive.
Tanzania has been an outstanding nation in dealing with corruption since the coming in of President Magufuli. Africa needs the Magufuli effect to curb corruption that has become rampant in Africa. After the President Magufuli visit to Zimbabwe in July, there has been a hype of activity at Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission leading to first ever arrest of a seating Cabinet Minister and probing of the former Vice President in Zimbabwe. The former Zambian minister for social services, Emerine Kabanshi, is due in court next month for corruption charges over allegations that led Britain to suspend aid to Zambia last year. It seems Zambia got a wakeup call from the aid freeze.
The development of Zambia’s business environment is hindered by corruption and a weak institutional framework. Companies encounter red tape and rampant bribery in all business operations, including company registration, obtaining a construction permit, setting up utilities, and paying taxes. As a result of the inefficient and corrupt judicial system, foreign investors’ property rights are not accurately protected nor enforced. In addition, international trade is impeded by pervasive corruption and crime in Zambia’s customs. Companies regularly pay kickbacks and bribes in the tendering process for government contracts. Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Act prohibits corruption, extortion, bribery of a foreign public official, abuse of office and money laundering. Zambia’s legislation does not address facilitation payments and the maximum allowable value of gifts or hospitality is not clearly regulated. There is still room to improve the enforcement of Zambia’s anti-corruption legislation.
The Zambian Anti- Corruption commission must continue to build momentum in its efforts towards prevention of the corruption scourge and putting in place transparent and accountable systems of governance. Further, the commission should not relent in its efforts to ensure that levels of corruption in the county are reduced.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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