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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

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Zambia: Speed Up Health Ministry Investigations, Says TIZ

TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) has appealed to investigative wings to speed up the investigations at the Ministry of Health to avoid loss of vital evidence and time.

TIZ executive director, Goodwell Lungu, said it was unfortunate that some files had already gone missing but was still confident that the missing information would be reconstructed using records from other institutions.

Mr Lungu, who was responding to a Press query, said yesterday that it was easy to get bank records and reconstruct the expenditure pattern and also get some documents from institutions that the ministry dealt with.

"We are sad that the files can go missing. As TIZ we hope that the missing files are not a deliberate attempt by ministry officials or other interested parties to deliberately hide wrongdoing that could have been contained in those missing files," he said.

He said TIZ was aware that reconstructing the evidence was a tedious process but added that it would work in the best interest of transparency and accountability.

Meanwhile, the Government will soon come up with a roadmap to improve audit and procurement systems in different departments and public institutions to guard against misuse of public funds, Finance and National Planning Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane has said.

He said in Lusaka yesterday that officials in his ministry had in the last four weeks been working with the Office of the Auditor General and other institutions to draw up the roadmap for improving procurement, audit and stores in various departments in light of the corruptionscandal at the Ministry of Health.

The minister, who was addressing a workshop on the Impact of the Global Financial Crisis on Corporate Governance in Zambia, organised by the Economics Association of Zambia, Institute of Directors and the University of Zambia Business and Economics Association at Intercontinental Hotel said the roadmap was already in shape.

"Officers from my ministry have been working with their colleagues for about four weeks to look at what has transpired and what we can do to ensure that systems of procurement, audit and stores in Government are enhanced to ensure transparency.

"We are at a stage where we are almost siding with the shape of the roadmap in view of what has transpired. This is really the most appropriate approach," he said.

Dr Musokotwane said the Government was finalising discussions with the cooperating partners that had expressed concern over the revelations of financial scandals at the Ministry of Health and subsequently put on hold their funding.

He said the Government wanted the donors to have confidence in the systems being put in place.

Dr Musokotwane said the major challenge in the implementation of public programmes was the lack of capacity by the civil service to implement the good plans.

He said citizens must be vigilant to guard against mismanagement of public resources and that the Government on its part had given 100 per cent freedom to the law enforcement organs to investigate such vices and bring to book all the culprits.

The minister said the Government was putting in place measures aimed at improving corporate governance in the public sector through appointment of independent people on audit committees in ministries and adopting other elements of good corporate governance from the private sector practices.

At the same function, University of Zambia head of economics department, Manenga Ndulo said there was need for the Government to take appropriate measures to improve the structural challenges in the public service by reducing on the inertia and wastage of public resources.

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