Hiding information

The enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill has once again become a mirage as it transpires that the original draft was in conflict with not less than 13 other pieces of legislation.

The good news is that the glitch is being attended to.  The bad news is that there is as yet no time frame in which the issues will be resolved.

There is a growing concern that the bill may go the same way as the constitution making process which does not seem to have an end in sight.

When enacted the information bill will serve the very important and critical purpose of increasing Government accountability to the people of Zambia, but perhaps because of this reason the Government is in no immediate hurry to enact it.

Although Political accountability means that Government officials have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the society, the reality is very different.

Many times public authorities act at total variance with public or common interest because they realize that no consequence will follow any such misconduct.

Very often there is no mechanism, legal or otherwise to hold the authorities accountable even where it is clear that the normal procedures have been disregarded. This was the case when the Director General of the Anti Corruption Commission was removed from office against the written or lawful procedures.

The media and civil society raised the issue in various fora but ultimately the matter was abandoned and the status quo prevailed, with the result that the Anti Corruption Commission has become totally moribund and useless only capable of pursuing the small fish in society and not the mega Tenderprenuers who are being awards contracts to build roads which they are totally un-able to do because they neither have the personnel, capacity nor equipment for the job.

The ACC can’t even see nor root out corruption among traffic officers here in Lusaka where roadblocks have become permanent features of the corruption culture.

They cannot even investigate corruption in the Lusaka City Council where we have published details of contracts in which Councilors have allocated themselves contracts in very corrupt circumstances.

Business at the Lusaka City Council is going on as usual and those who are culpable of abuse of office have nothing to worry about because the ACC will never dare investigate, let alone prosecute them.

This is the highly compromised and degenerate levels to which our oversight institutions have fallen. Our institutions including the Police, Drug Enforcement Commission and ACC have been so compromised that nothing short of total reform will redeem them.

Until then, the media is the only institution that can claim oversight by exposing wrong doing to public scrutiny, but that this is only possible if the media access to information

That is why we are anxious that the bill is enacted to give the media an opportunity to inform and educate the public to enable them make informed judgment.