Scrapping of the policy which allows personal-to-holder cars in Government is the only sustainable solution to ending abuse of public transport.
The honorable minister has so far done a very commendable job clamping down abuse of public transport over the weekends and after hours in Lusaka, Southern Province and now Copperbelt. I think every well-meaning Zambian must commend the minister for a job well-done in this regard. He deserves accolades because to some extent, the effort has exposed the extent of abuse and has achieved some modest degree of cost-saving.
Though the exercise is commendable, it is not sustainable for a number of reasons. The first reason is the degree of abuse which is deep-rooted, pervasive and widespread whereby the inspectors themselves are part and parcel of the problem. Furthermore, such an exercise largely depends on the personality of the minister in charge of the portfolio. If the minister himself is an abusive character, the inspectorate will be rendered moribund.
You see, the degree of abuse of public transport is deep-rooted, pervasive and widespread. It is countrywide. Yet, inspectors are so few. They are not all over the country. When they are carrying out inspections in Lusaka district, the rest of the country is exposed.
Mind you we have over 100 districts. When the inspectors move to Livingstone, then Lusaka and the remaining other 100 districts are exposed, and same is the case when the inspectors move to Kitwe. It is like going around in circles.
The other major problem is that the inspectors are also part of the problem. They also as much abuse public transport. In fact, they will always tip their friends which side of the city to avoid going to during operations. So at the end of the day, the least connected get caught up in the drag-net.
The most serious problem is the president in power, and the minister at the helm of the works and supply ministry. If the president and the minister are abuse, whereby they over-allocate government vehicles to their families and friends, the inspections will be a non-starter in the first place. We have seen before a situation where a president over-allocated government cars to his children, wives and friends. The police and other law enforcement officers had no control over these people and cars. We have also seen a situation where a minister over-allocated cars to his children and friends.
The rules on use and abuse of public transport are not new. They have been there since independence. Presidents, ministers, permanent secretaries and directors have come and gone. Most often than not, they turn a blind eye on the abuse of public transport for their personal convenience. Even, now, I know that big-wigs are not being caught in the dragnet. All over Lusaka, and elsewhere around the country, big-wigs are busy abusing Government vehicles at farms and construction sites. It is an appalling situation.
The only sustainable solution is scrap off the policy of personal-to-holder cars policy instead of running hide and seek with abusers of public transport.
If honorable Mutati is serious about cost-saving, he should first of all move a motion in parliament to abolish personal-to-holder car schemes in Government and quasi-government institutions. This is where there is really serious waste of public resources. A loan scheme which is currently obtaining at Parliament should be used to inform public sector transport policy across the public service. It should be integrated too. If one gets a loan through Parliament, that person should not be eligible to get a similar loan through the Executive wing or indeed the Judiciary branch of Government. There should be a one-person-one car loan policy across the continuum of Government. Cars gotten should be used for official business too, whereby Government’s role should be to provide a modest allowance for fuel and car maintenance only. If honorable Mutati moves such a motion in parliament, we as the Greens will definitely lobby MPs across the political divide to support the motion.
The 2018 budget expenditure for General Public Service increased from 27.9 per cent of the budget to 35.6 per cent. This is almost a 10 per cent increase. The trouble is that the bulk of the increase is going towards buying of new cars, fuel and maintenance expenses as well as first-class and business class flying. This sort of waste of public resources should really come to an end. We need to dedicate more of our meager resources towards deserving areas, especially social protection, housing for the poor, health and education.