Monkeys in a maize field

Nkana Patriotic Front member of parliament Alexander Chiteme says civil servants expending budget money approved in Parliament are the ones behaving like monkeys in a maize field.

Chiteme says a good number of civil servants are doing better than members of parliament because of theft.

He said most misappropriations reported in the Auditor General’s report were by civil servants yet politicians were the ones receiving the backlash. “If you go in Chalala, you will find houses built in Nigerian style and if you ask for the owner, you will hear it is the accountant in education ministry,” said Chiteme, adding that the failure to punish the offenders had exacerbated the scourge.

The situation in which civil servants subvert the system for personal gain when the majority of the citizens were poor is a tragedy we should never endure as a nation. But the unfortunate thing is that those who run the civil service, the controlling officers, are appointed by the politicians – the President – and are untouchable. Look at how rich the civil servants at State House have become in a very short time!

The power to do great good or evil lies with these civil servants.

But in a country where the President, the chief appointing authority for key civil servants, sees being in power as an opportunity for quick self-enrichment through unearned income, then the nation faces a monumental tragedy. How can such a president control or discipline civil servants who are enriching themselves in the same way he is doing? It’s unacceptable for the President and the civil servants he has assembled around himself to become so rich in the very short time they have been in office in a country where the majority of the citizens are living far below the poverty line and are every day struggling to make a living. It’s sad the President and his minions are subverting public office to enrich themselves. This is the worst tragedy that a nation can experience. The reasons for the corrupt civil service, which in turn has given room to ineffective service delivery, are not too far to seek: it is because the key political leadership is corrupt and it is using these same civil servants to enrich itself. And when the key political leadership and civil servants are corrupt, controls in public institutions are overrun, institutional structures are weakened to allow stealing with impunity.

And an insatiable appetite for wealth at all costs is created. Look at the wealth Edgar Lungu and the civil servants around him are accumulating everyday! They are buying and building houses as if there will be no tomorrow! In a country where the President is incorruptible, you cannot have the corruption we are witnessing in government procurement – an ambulance which should cost no more than $70,000 is bought at $288,000 from middlemen close to those in power and eating with them. Equally, fire tenders which can be bought at $500,000 or less are purchased through middlemen connected to those at State House for a million dollars.

In this way, the culture of accountability and ethical behaviour, which is very much needed for civil service to operate efficiently, effectively and in an orderly way, are thrown overboard. These civil servants are supposed to be permanent government officials embedded in the three arms of government. But instead of enjoying continuity of service and protection by the public service rules, these serve at the discretion of the President and can be hired and kicked out at any time if they are seen not to be user-friendly to the corrupt schemes of the political authorities.

In this way, the civil service is subverted. And when this happens, evil sets in – greed, drive of an individual to exploit,

insatiable appetite and crave to have more, and the fear of the unknown. In this way, ethical behaviour and accountability in civil service are wiped out. And this leads to the destruction of the civil service rule of impartiality and political neutrality which is supposed to obtain in most government establishments.

When corruption takes root, the socio-economic life of the nation is destroyed; economic planning becomes difficult, if not impossible. Corruption in the civil service concentrates wealth in the hands of a few individuals, promoting widespread poverty and large scale unemployment, destroys efficiency, ethical, moral and religious values and foster an environment in which unfairness and inequity thrive. What is needed is for us to move from rhetoric to action on corruption in the civil service.

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