President Hakainde Hichilema came into power on the back of his anti-corruption policy proposals aimed at making Zambia’s economy more attractive for investors. His commitment to this is now being questioned, especially when it comes to his promise to protect whistleblowers.
This examination of Hakainde’s promises is unfolding against the backdrop of one whistleblower's ordeal who has spilled the beans on a colossal embezzlement scandal in the Ministry of General Education. The whistleblower, who is a Principal Internal Auditor at the ministry of finance, has been subjected to harassment from high-ranking government officials.
The auditor at the Ministry of Finance (MoF) was reassigned to investigate financial irregularities within the Ministry of General Education. During this investigation, he uncovered extensive money laundering and corruption schemes involving public funds.
In August 2022, Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) conducted an investigation that exposed the embezzlement of over K1 billion from the state treasury through fictitious allowances and a five-year payroll fraud.
Examples of this fraud include K21 million spent on illegal travel allowances for senior Ministry of General Education officials and payments exceeding K2 million for undelivered goods.
Another instance involved the theft of K530,000 at the Provincial Education Office in Kabwe.
Promptly, these financial irregularities were reported to both the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and the Drug Enforcement
Commission (DEC), leading to the arrest of 20 senior government officials, including the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of General Education, the Accountant General, and the Controller of Internal Audit.
In an attempt to silence the whistleblower, an offer of K8,000 as a bribe was made, and K5,000 was deposited into his account. The ACC has been dragging its feet in arresting the officer who bribed the auditor despite the money being restricted in the auditors’ bank account for over 2 years now.
The ACC has not yet provided a response to the question regarding the absence of an arrest for the individual who paid the bribe.
Victimisation of the Whistleblower
MakanDay has now learned that the whistleblower, placed in a safehouse owned by one of the law enforcement agencies while awaiting further investigation and the potential prosecution of those responsible for the offenses he uncovered, is facing victimisation by certain high-ranking government officials who escaped arrest.
The victimisation has taken a distressing turn, resulting in unfounded disciplinary actions initiated by senior government officials at the MoF. He was abruptly transferred to Mongu in the Western Province, a move that lacks any justifiable rationale. Since January of this year, his salary has been deliberately withheld, and he has now been entirely removed from the payroll, exacerbating his ordeal.
The actions of certain senior government officials compelled the ACC to issue warning and caution statements to them, urging restraint and advising against interference in the ongoing investigations, as well as any further mistreatment of the Auditor. Regrettably, these warning and caution statements were blatantly disregarded, and the implicated senior government officials persisted in their victimisation of the Auditor.
As a whistleblower who has exposed rampant corruption and theft, he is protected by the provisions outlined in the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act No. 4 of 2010.
Part II of the Act, specifically in section 10, clearly stipulates that 'An employer shall not subject an employee to any occupational detriment on account, or partly on account, of the employee having made a protected disclosure or public interest disclosure.'
The Act defines 'occupational detriment' as including disciplinary action, dismissal, suspension, demotion, harassment, intimidation, or involuntary transfer due to the disclosure.