Suspending Ministers

President Sata has been very slow in suspending Ministers and other ranking officials who come under scrutiny and investigation on issues of integrity.

In the recent past two Ministers, Wynter Kabimba for Justice and Sylvia Masebo for Tourism and Arts remained in office while Tribunals investigated their alleged wrong doing.

Ordinarily officers under investigation are made to step down to ensure that they do not interfere with investigation and more importantly that they do not influence witnesses and those under their charge who may be required to provide evidence.

The wisdom of this practice has been demonstrated by what has now transpired in the ongoing Zambia Wild Life Authority (ZAWA) sags where the authority proceeded to spend more than K42million on witnesses who were supposed to testify on behalf of “our Minister.”

Details are still emerging but we believe that more expenses were incurred by other state agencies which were determined to defend the Minister.

We had another troubling case where the Minister of Justice who was under probe remained in office and was supposed to testify and give evidence to a Parliamentary Committee that was considering the appointment of Supreme Court Judges Evans Hamaundu and Albert Wood.

The Minister was cleared by the Judge Hamaundu Tribunal in an outcome that predictably raised eyebrows and is likely to result in judicial review.

This cloud need not have arisen if greater care was taken to ensure that issues of integrity were given priority attention to ensure that transparency was observed.

The failure to observe such clear procedures will result in compounding a civil wrong with other malfeasance which may graduate to a criminal offence as the ZAWA experience will sadly demonstrate.

The issue of integrity in public office is very important because the entire delivery of services is premised on a system that ethical and moral principles which are themselves intended as pillars of  good governance.

Politicians and senior political appointees serving in Government should be expected to perform in a manner that is beyond question.   At the heart of such delivery is the principle of honesty. Public officers who simply observe the barest of standards for the purposes of avoiding the law should not be countenanced.

The President must therefore seriously reconsider the appointments of individuals who have serious baggage which is affecting the performance of duty because if such vetting is not done in timely fashion, the fall out in the future may prove precipitous for all concerned.

Corruption rarely goes unpunished and all those who are complicit will suffer the consequences.