Transparent International Zambia (TIZ) president Rueben Lifuka says cadreism has become the major source of corruption in the construction sector in Zambia.
And Lifuka says it is not longer a secret that the common problem faced by the construction industry include the non-disclosure of beneficial owners of bidding companies and rigging of tenders among others.
Lifuka said this when he made his presentation at the construction sector anti-corruption Forum at Intercontinental Hotel in Lusaka, Wednesday.
“It is not a secrete that common challenges that face the construction sector include the non-disclosure of of beneficial owners of bidding companies. Beneficial ownership is a big international concern. Issues of conflict of interest, influence peddling, bid rigging or tender rigging, concealment of documents, over pricing and false invoices. In fact, one of our major concerns as TIZ is the over designing; we are seeing high specifications of products which ordinarily should not have those specifications. We are also seeing the syndrome of evolving doors, where today you have government officials who tomorrow become private contractors and use their former position to gain that extra advantage over the other players,” Lifuka submitted.
He also said that studies had revealed that cadreism had become a cancerous form of corruption in the construction sector.
“cadreism is another concern that we have. What we are seeing in this country is that cadreism has become another cancerous form of corruption where it has become a norm that political party cadres should be given construction contracts regardless of their ability to service this contract. So we need to look at all these and we should also improve on the transparency in the awarding of contracts and generally improve on the operating environment for the construction industry,” he advised.
“Of late we have heard calls for evidence. On whatever allegations of corruption, we have heard calls from particularly those in power for evidence and I will repeat what I said at the anti-corruption day. If your neighbour sees a snake entering your house and informs you that ‘I saw what looked like a snake entering your house’ I am sure the first thing you will do is not to say ‘give me evidence to show that it’s not a lizard or just another reptile’. You will go into your house , you will check if there is a snake and if there is no snake, you will check if there are any loopholes for the snake to enter. In this case, even where people raise suspicious about weaknesses in the system, we are asked for evidence. And the problem is that we have problems of corruption in the construction sector and reducing this requires everyone to be on board.”
And Lifuka said there were always unscrupulous individuals and companies looking into making profits out of public funds.
“In Zambia, the construction industry is the back born of economic growth and contributes as much as 10,6 percent to the nation’s GDP. When one looks at the Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP), you do realise that there is huge infrastructure spent in form of railways, airports, schools, hospitals, hydro power stations, renewable energy etc. Evidently we will continue to see an increase in large scale public financing projects. Nearly 1/3 of the investment in the construction sector is lost through corruption. It follows therefore that corruption in the construction sector deserves serious attention. Where ever there is a lot of money pumped into the sector, there are always unscrupulous individual companies or organisations that are looking into profit of public funds, usually at the expense of project quality. Its our contention that the infrastructure sector should be looked at very closely. However, we shouldn’t just focus on the end product, infrastructure is not fundamentally a hip of infrastructure, its a flow of services. Roads are inputs to the transport sector,” Lifuka said.
Speaking at the same event, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet Patrick Kangwa said government was always committed to strengthening law enforcement institutions, particularly the Anti-Corruption Commission, in order to better equip it so that it could identify, prevent and prosecute corruption incidences in the country
“Government is committed to strengthening law enforcement institutions particularly the Anti-Corruption Commission to be better equipped to identify, prevent and prosecute corruption incidences in the country. It is in this regard that the government launched the National Anti-Corruption Policy on 27th August 2009; enacted the ‘Whistleblower Protection Act’ of 2010, and the Plea Negotiation agreement Acts of 2010. It is clear that to fight corruption, we all need to get involved. People with different perspectives should working together towards a common objective and with accurate up-to-date information on anti-corruption matters. This also means creating an environment where everyone is continuously learning more about corruption and its negative impacts. Unfortunately, there is no platform in Zambia on which the various stakeholders can meet to discuss activities and measures in the construction sector, hence the need to establish such forums,” said Kangwa.
And University of Zambia Vice Chancellor Professor Luke Mumba said holding of regular Construction Sector Anti-Corruption Advisory Forums would not only serve as an open source of information on corruption in the construction sector, but also as a lobby for better policies and laws to fight the scourge.
The UNZA Research project team also submitted that corruption was mostly common at tendering and sourcing stage of government contract and attributed this to lack of accountability and political interference.
The team also cited low salaries, greed and poverty levels, among other issues, as drivers of corruption in the construction sector