Zambia Notes: Rooting out Corruption

In Tearfund’s 2010 report, Corruption and its Discontents, 87% of people surveyed in Zambia said that corruption was either ‘serious’ or ‘very serious’.  So whilst in Zambia with UK MPs Gavin Shuker and Tony Cunningham, I hoped we would hear more about the problem of corruption and some of the solutions being advocated by churches and other civil society groups.

Corruption impacts on development in a whole number of ways – at the macro level, it means that there is a lack of resources for investment in things like health, education, water and sanitation. At a micro-level, it limits access to basic services and destroys public confidence. Transparency International Zambia with whom we met in Lusaka have estimated that approximately 8-9% of the national budget is lost to corruption and cited a number of sectors such as the construction sector and the health sector which have appeared particularly vulnerable. They quoted the shocking example of a recent construction project which had cost 8.4bn kwacha, 2.1bn of which had ended up being paid to the son of Zambia’s former President. The extractives sector is another sector which is susceptible to corruption and in speaking to the UK MPs in Lusaka, Publish What You Pay Zambia (in which Tearfund partner EFZ is actively involved), set out the case for greater transparency and accountability in order to ensure that Zambians benefit more fully from inward investment especially in mining. We heard about a number of contracts that have been awarded for projects in the mining sector without much regard to social and environmental standards, and this sets alarm bells ringing about the possibility of corruption.

However whilst there is clearly a long way to go, there are some incredibly interesting initiatives that are springing up and which could signal a way forward. There is an Anti-Corruption Commission in Zambia with active participation from church representatives and the African Parliamentarians’ Network Against Corruption (APNAC – part of a global network) is also raising the profile of corruption issues across Africa. In Zambia the Chapter now has over 90 members, over half the total number of parliamentarians sitting in the National Assembly. The Chapter has an ethical code of conduct and is not just providing training for new members of parliament but also developing a community outreach programme, working in partnership with civil society groups including local churches.

Corruption inevitably results in less resources being available for investment in essential services like water and sanitation

The debate about corruption, transparency and foreign direct investment is also very current in Zambia– greater transparency at both a national and district level (where many licences are granted) should create a more attractive investment environment and enable communities to question payments or contracts that seem to be poor value for money. The UK has a key role to play in this regard and Tearfund has been urging the Government to take a strong position in favour of EU legislation requiring country-level and project-level reporting by oil, gas and mining companies. Finally, Transparency International Zambia also talked about the need for people to stand up to corruption and refuse to pay bribes at a local level. They have now established a legal advice project to encourage people to report corruption and are training communities in participatory monitoring methods, something that church networks are also well-placed to facilitate.

DFID has identified addressing corruption as a key priority for its programme in Zambia and this decision should be applauded. APNAC Zambia noted that without DFID’s support, implementation of their strategic plan would not be possible. Our media often views corruption through the lens of international aid, but we rarely hear about the anti-corruption efforts that we are actually financing and enabling as a result of UK aid – I was immensely impressed by the work of APNAC and others whom we met and people in the UK should be proud of what is being achieved with this support.

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