Corruption and graft will continue to thrive in public procurement for as long as the Government does not take measures to re-align leadership and mandate of the two most important institutions, namely the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zambia Public Procurement Authority.
These organizations are spectacular failures in guarding against graft.
The ZPPA cannot even distinguish the difference between a foreign company registered in Zambia and an indigenous Zambian owned company. For them the two are the same and must compete equally. This is of course nonsense.
There is no way that an indigenous company will compete with a well-financed multinational that has deep pockets to pay huge bribes to adjudicating officers. More importantly the multinationals will deplete the country of all the meager foreign currency apart from exporting jobs.
Corruption is a national security threat that must be dealt with in the most ruthless and determined manner possible to save national resources and integrity.
However any campaign against corruption must start with the integrity, effectiveness and performance of the institutions charged with the responsibility.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has not only declared corruption as a national security problem but has introduced very stringent measures to curb any form of graft especially on government contracts.
From now onwards in Kenya every company seeking to work with Government both at a national and county level must sign an approved business code of ethics domiciled in the public procurement oversight authority.
As rightly observed by President Lungu yesterday government contracts are fraught with irregularities and corruption and most of the mischief weaved through tenders in a manner that finally favours particular outcomes.
Unfortunately our public procurement authority has been on the back foot as it fails to fully distinguish the importance of tender direction in relation to weighted discrimination in favour of Zambians. A typical example is the award of 65 textbooks to a Ugandan company. Surely what do we lack in Zambia to print the 65 textbooks? Have local printers been challenged?
The suggestion that simply because a company is registered in Zambia means that it is Zambian and most compete with indigenous owned companies is a form of folly that has led to serious and widespread corruption because foreign owners often belong to multinational mother companies that are able to afford bribes and in some cases to take advantage of economies of scale.
In spite of many complaints by Zambians ZPPA has remained aloof and insular, paying very little heed and attention to circumstances where a parastatal will with impunity advertise a tender inviting foreign participation when Zambian companies are quite capable of performing the contract.
To add insult to injury the ZPPA will not query when such parastatals decided to freeze the project when a capable Zambian company emerges, removing any excuse giving the contract to a foreign company. This is condoning corruption.
There is therefore a very serious demand for changes at ZPPA both in terms of leadership and mandate of the authority.
We are entering into a very serious phase in which Government must re-align its expenditure by ensuring prudent use of resources but this will not be achieved if you have a ZPPA that is moribund and unable to provide checks and balances and ensure proper usage of scarce resources. If need be the mandate for ZPPA must be broadened to give it capacity to pierce a corporate veil of institutions to ensure that those that claim to be Zambian are truly Zambian and not Zambian for the sake of winning public tenders.
Any attempt at diversification will be futile if the Zambian people are not integrated in the exercise.
The indigenous people must not only feel but must be empowered to participate actively and meaningfully and with the support of Government in their entrepreneurial endeavours.