Navigating challenges in Zambia’s public financial management: A critical analysis and path forward

By Bernadette Deka-Zulu (PhD Researcher – Public Enterprise)

PUBLIC Financial Management (PFM) serves as the linchpin for economic development, yet in Zambia, a crucible of challenges demands meticulous scrutiny.

This article penetrates the depths of the country’s PFM landscape, dissecting legislative acts, policies, and gleaning insights from triumphs in Rwanda and stumbles in South Africa.

Our focus sharpens on exposing criticisms and frailties within the country’s PFM system, wielding a discerning lens on the effectiveness of checks and balances, with a laser focus on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Let’s unravel the intricacies and forge a path toward a reinvigorated financial frontier.

Legislative framework in Zambia: A need for reassessment

While the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) lays the foundation for PFM in Zambia, critiques have emerged regarding its enforcement and effectiveness. Some argue that legislative frameworks lack teeth, with insufficient mechanisms to penalise those responsible for financial mismanagement.

A re-evaluation of the PFMA, incorporating lessons from countries with successful enforcement models, is essential to fortify the country’s legal infrastructure for sound financial management.

Policies and implementation gaps

Zambia’s National Development Plan (NDP) reflects noble aspirations for sustainable development, yet the challenge lies in translating policy into effective implementation. Critics point to gaps between policy formulation and execution, emphasising the need for improved coordination, monitoring, and evaluation mechanisms.

Addressing these implementation challenges is crucial to ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently, and development goals are met.

Rwanda’s success and Zambia’s struggles: Bridging the gap

Drawing lessons from Rwanda’s success, Zambia faces criticism for a perceived lack of agility in adopting modern technologies to enhance transparency and accountability. The slow adoption of technological solutions for revenue collection and expenditure tracking hampers efficiency.

Zambia must overcome institutional inertia and invest in technology to bridge the gap and emulate the success seen in countries at the forefront of PFM innovation.

Learning from South Africa’s pitfalls: Corruption and oversight concerns

South Africa’s struggles with corruption and weak financial controls serve as a cautionary tale for Zambia. Criticisms of inadequate oversight mechanisms and persistent corruption highlight the need for the country to strengthen its anti-corruption efforts and enhance checks and balances within its PFM system.

Learning from the pitfalls of others, Zambia must proactively address corruption risks to build a resilient and trustworthy financial management framework.

Checks and balances in Zambia’s PFM system

Ensuring accountability and transparency, Zambia has established a robust system of checks and balances. The Auditor General’s office, an independent body, conducts audits to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of public spending. The PAC, a parliamentary committee, plays a pivotal role in scrutinising audit reports, holding government officials accountable, and recommending corrective actions.

Assessing checks and balances: PAC’s efficacy in question

While the PAC is a key component of the country’s oversight framework, critics argue that its effectiveness is hampered by political interference and resource constraints. The committee’s ability to hold the executive accountable is questioned, emphasising the need for measures to enhance its independence, capacity, and authority.

A reinvigorated PAC is vital for bolstering transparency and accountability in Zambia’s PFM system.

Conclusion: A call for reform and resilience

Zambia’s PFM system faces substantial challenges, requiring a candid admission of weaknesses and a commitment to reform. Criticisms regarding legislative enforcement, policy implementation, and oversight efficacy must be met with targeted interventions.

Emulating successful models and learning from the shortcomings of others, Zambia has an opportunity to fortify its PFM systems, foster transparency, and lay the groundwork for sustainable economic development.

The path forward involves a resilient commitment to reform, ensuring that the lessons learned contribute to the evolution of a more robust and accountable financial management framework.



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