Honourable Gary Nkombo, the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development this week disbursed the constituency development fund (CDF) despite the fact that Zambia had empty national coffers. The disbursed constituency development fund amounted to K249.6 million for the 156 constituencies in the country. In simple arithmetic, each constituency received K1.6 million.
The CDF is meant for spearheading developmental projects in the constituencies by the Members of Parliament (MPs) with the assistance of the civic leaders, the councillors. The developmental projects have to be done during the five year tenure of office of the lawmakers in the constituencies.
What is certain is that each constituency has its own pressing needs according to the needs of the people. This implies that the lawmakers should not impose development on the electorate.
The disbursement of the constituency development fund especially before the presentation of the national budget is good but not good enough. This is because people are wondering where the United Party for National Development (UPND) government got the money for CDF amid the empty national coffers.
President Hakainde Hichilema just after being sworn in as the seventh republican President during an interview with an international media disclosed that the UPND government inherited the empty national coffers from the former ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party. President Hichilema’s sentiments on empty coffers was rebuffed by Dr. Bwalya Ng’andu, the former Minister of Finance who disclosed that the Patriotic Front government left US$2.8 billion in the reserve.
However, President Hichilema’s sentiments on empty coffers was out of context because the head of State should have consulted widely before issuing a statement on such a sensitive matter which is under the scrutiny of the donor community. President Hichilema is no longer the leader of the opposition political party but the republican President. What the head of state says is under scrutiny by everyone.
The point worth noting is that Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) has been collecting revenue exceeding its target on behalf of the government year in and year out. If this is not enough, the country through the National Road Fund Agency /(NRFA) collects the substantial toll fees which go to the national treasury.
Given the above scenario, there is no way the country can have empty coffers. Truth be told and to the contrary, the national coffers are not empty. If the national coffers were empty, it wouldn’t be possible to disburse the CDF.
Moving forward; Zambians have great expectations from the new dawn administration. The UPND government should deliver development in various sectors of the economy let alone provision of free education from grade one to tertiary level as premised in the party’s campaign prior to the August 12 general election.
ELEMIYA PHIRI Lusaka.