Britain freezes aid to Zambia over graft fears

Britain freezes aid to Zambia over graft fears
Britain freezes aid to Zambia over graft fears
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Britain has suspended aid payments to Zambia over concerns of alleged fraud and corruption by the government of President Edgar Lungu who has faced graft allegations from within his own party.

Britain’s High Commissioner to Lusaka Fergus Cochrane-Dyet confirmed the suspension of funding in a tweet posted late on Monday.

“Correct that UK frozen all bilateral funding to Zambian government in light of potential concerns until audit results known,” Cochrane-Dyet wrote in a tweet. “UK Aid takes zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption.”

Britain’s development ministry says on its website it earmarked $63.1m in aid for Zambia in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

The amount that has been suspended is unknown.

Former foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba, who resigned his position in January this year alleging “swelling” official corruption, said Britain’s decision proved there was a problem.

“I feel vindicated. The very first time I resigned and when I spoke people felt that I was speaking politics,” said Kalaba who is still a lawmaker in Lungu’s ruling party.

“But now the foreign community is saying what I said when I resigned.

“What is sad is that the innocent souls will suffer.”

Last week, the London-based Africa Confidential publication said misuse of donor funds had pushed Finland and Sweden to freeze aid, while Britain was demanding the return of $4m that was allegedly embezzled.

In response to Britain’s move, Lungu called for an investigation into misuse of funds launched four months ago to submit its findings.

“I want a speedy and decisive investigation into the matter to establish the status of the disbursement of the (funds),” Lungu said in a statement.

“Whatever cases of abuse requiring criminal investigations may arise, such cases must be reported to relevant agencies – and where administrative action is required I want to see prompt action taken”.

Lungu’s office added that preliminary findings suggested $3.9m was still owed to the intended beneficiaries across the aid-dependent country.

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