Textbook corruption

The perfect excuses for corruption and graft are haste and speed.

Oftentimes technocrats will bury the devil in the detail of a flawed and corrupt tender and then seek to propel such a document packed with booby traps at tremendous speed through adjudicating teams often made up of civil servants drawn from security arms who do not understand the philosophy, ethos and technical detail of an organization.

We are seeing this in the US$5 million textbook treasonous scandal.  We hear technocrats are pressing Minister of Education, Dr. John Phiri, to demand an early exoneration or clearance so that books are availed in the New Year.

This will be a mistake because the full gamut of tests, inquiries and validation must be made before the ministry is allowed to export foreign currency and more importantly jobs. Why are experts in education from universities not being engaged?

It is incomprehensible that the ministry is demanding early clearance when the complainants, namely indigenous Zambian book publishers, have not been interviewed. What kind of investigation is this where the people who lodged a complaint with Anti-Corruption Commission, Vice President, government and the Zambia Public Procurement Authority are totally ignored.

There is a very simple question that has not been answered: Where is the approved and authenticated list of books to be used in Zambia?

It will be wrong for the Ministry of Education which has been accused of corruption to clear itself on account of extraneous consideration when substantive issues are still under study.

It stands to reason and logic that any credible investigation should not only be seen to be thorough but must be comprehensive, well informed and in its evidence encompassing all sides to the conflict.

It will be a shame that the same civil servants with connections who found their way to State House will triumph over hardworking Zambian publishers who have no such chance.

This issue is not simply about money, substantial as it may be.  It goes to the heart of national integrity and legitimacy of our education system.

Text books should be developed, processed and produced by citizens who own both the content and physical output.

The content refers to the intellectual input that must be original contextual and based on national interest;  while production itself must also reflect cost effectiveness that will come about with advantage of volume and subsequent economies of scale.  The more books that are produced the cheaper they will be.

It is very frustrating, annoying and an obvious abuse of process for the Ministry of Education to press for the expeditious clearance of the textbook scandal investigation.

The accused cannot serve as the judges. The complainants must be heard.

It is also for this reason that we have asked that any investigation of the textbook saga must involve educationalists from the University of Zambia, local publishers and local printers.

The investigation will be incomplete and a total waste of time and money if Zambian publishers are not interviewed. These are the complainants and for as long as their side of the story is not heard then whoever is investigating  and making a conclusion is abetting  crime and doing  a great disservice against the nation.