ACTIONAID Zambia country director Nalucha Nganga Ziba says instituting an inquiry into the privatisation of national assets will be a waste of resources because there have been many inquiries that have yielded nothing.
Speaking on a Money FM programme to discuss the country’s privatisation process, Ziba highlighted the many reasons privatisation was allowed, such as when public companies become unprofitable or not viable.
“Looking at the history of privatisation in Zambia, some companies that were privatised include: Zambia Breweries, National Milling Company, Refined Oil Products (ROP), to mention but a few. Some companies, after being bought off, have gone on to become quite profitable,” she said.
Ziba said parastatals that were not economically viable were considered for privatisation.
“The Zambia Privatisation Agency (ZPA) was the agency in charge of privatisation. There were concerns by some sections of society that privatisation was rushed and that Zambia did not get a better deal out of the process,” she noted.
Ziba said with over 20 years past the privatisation process, what was more important currently was to learn from the process and ensure that there was cautiousness in managing state assets.
She said additionally, there were other government agencies already in existence that could institute investigations such as the Anti-Money Laundering Unit and other security agencies, including the Auditor General’s office, all of which have statutory powers to investigate and prosecute economic and financial sabotage crimes.
“To this effect, we agree with the views of Mr Peter Sinkamba in an article titled ‘Why We Think the Proposed Commission of Inquiry on Privatisation is Irrelevant’ published in the Lusaka Times of 30th December 2018. The previous privatisation process had many flaws: money from the sale of state enterprises was not being paid into the Privatisation Revenue Account (PRA) contrary to the Privatisation Act; revenue generated from the sale of assets was not used to further economic and social rights of citizens, especially as relates to paying redundancy package schemes, implementing alternative income generating and social projects in the public interest,” Ziba said. “In addition, the Zambia Privatisation Agency (ZPA) board was not balanced as some members from critical sections of society were missing e.g the Law Association of Zambia, the Bankers Association of Zambia, the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants, and the Churches of Zambia. This implied that the process was heavily driven by government without the involvement of key stakeholders. As such, there were transparency issues. Lastly, there were allegations of corruption in the process.”
She said ideally, it was good if parastatals were managed efficiently by government on behalf of the people than placing them in private hands.
“If its public- private driven, government, at least, should have significant shares. However, what really leads to privatisation is because some parastatals are not managed prudently and end up unprofitable. As a result, they become a drain on national coffers,” said Ziba.