MORIBUND INVESTIGATIVE AGENCIES
OUR investigative agencies including the AntiCorruption Commission, Drug Enforcement Commission and Zambia Police Service are truly moribund and a disgrace to the nation for failing to investigate clear and open cases of corruption, thereby exposing the country to ridicule among donors and many countries of goodwill. Nearly two years ago we published a series of stories exposing irregularities at the Ministry of Education. We were roundly condemned for the exposure to the extent that the Ministry of Education stopped advertising in our newspaper and labelled us unpatriotic. It has now taken donors to stop funding for the relevant authorities to spring into action. None of the investigative agencies took any notice or initiative in the matter. We were vindicated yesterday, when the acting Minister of General Education, Mr Vincent Mwale, admitted that more than K19.5 million had been misappropriated from the Ministry and that more than 80 erring officers involved in financial irregularities had been suspended following a forensic audit report. This is a huge number of officers to be suspended at the same time. If the investigative arms of government, including Anti-Corruption Commission, Drug Enforcement Commission and Police Service had taken the trouble of investigating our reports, the rot would have been nipped in the bud and vast amounts of money would have been saved. But as it stands, the money has been lost and equally, donor support will not be extended, perhaps until after mechanisms have been put in place to seal loopholes through which the money was stolen. Sadly, the greatest losers are the learners who would be denied resources, including teaching aids, because custodians of public funds dipped their hands into the till. We have said before and will continue to say that our role as a media is to expose wrong doing wherever it occurs. We expose abuses of power, privilege and authority. We do not conduct witch hunts neither do we take our privileged position lightly. It is however disappointing that on many occasions, we have undertaken serious investigative reporting, exposing grave abuses of power which reports have been simply ignored by the agencies responsible for prosecuting culprits. We refuse to accept the notion that these agencies have no capacity. We have expertise at all levels of governance, but which expertise is either ignored, sidetracked and in some cases demoralised by the lack of support from superior offices that should give effect to drastic control and disciplinary measures. In some cases, the inter position of roles between the political and technical positions has been responsible for inertia and lack of action because technocrats fear for their jobs if they stepped on political toes. This should not be the case because both the politicians and technocrats are working towards the greater good of the nation. The President has already indicated his open support for good order in the administration of justice and the resources put at the disposal of disbursing officers. He has vowed not to protect wrongdoers, a policy direction that should guide all government operatives. What has happened at the Ministry of Education, as was the case at the Ministry of Health, is unacceptable. When graft becomes the norm it betrays a malaise deserving of harsh treatment. In the struggle against graft, there should be no sacred cows and we hope in the future both the ACC, DEC, and police will take us seriously when we expose irregularities.