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Donors don't dictate but demand accountability - Nyirongo
09 July 2010
The Post

Lusaka: United Nations resident coordinator Macleod Nyirongo has said no cooperating partner is in Zambia to dictate to the government but they demand accountability because they are constantly under pressure from taxpayers in their respective countries. In an interview, Nyirongo said it was vital for the government and cooperating partners to dialogue to maintain good donor-government relations in the context of accountability.

"Of course, no cooperating partner is here to dictate to government. Each one of them understands their role. I know how much they respect government's authority, national governments and presidential authority," he said.

Nyirongo said it was only prudent that the government should account for the use of donor money, which in essence is money provided by taxpayers in those countries. He said the Zambian government, being democratic, had an obligation to make audits public because the people had the right to information on developmental issues.

"Audits have been done and the results are in the public domain; they are in the newspapers, on the radios, and that is a healthy democracy," Nyirongo said. "As these things are revealed, the taxpayers and the donor communities are also listening and they are asking, ‘what is happening?' You may have seen the articles in the Swedish press, the BBC other media and the government has been struggling to explain what is happening."

Nyirongo said following revelations of anomalies in the Auditor General's report, it was the responsibility of the government to take quick action against those found to have misapplied or misappropriated donor funds. "The key will be what will be the follow up action and the government has tried to act by changing the leadership, for example, in the road sector," he said.

Nyirongo reminded the government that cooperating partners were always under the scrutiny of their respective countries' publics, hence the need for the Zambian government to maintain the flow of aid through accountability. "On the side of the cooperating partners obviously, they are also under pressure from their taxpayers and you see the cooperating partners are as much representing Zambia as they are representing their countries to Zambia. There's no cooperating partner who will ask for US $120 million from his government and do that by speaking badly of the country," Nyirongo said.

President Rupiah Banda recently told donors that no one had asked them to help Zambia and they should therefore, not blackmail the government.

And commenting on the decision by cooperating partners to suspend the Ministry of Health as the principle recipient of the Global Fund, Nyirongo reiterated that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) would continue handling assistance on behalf of the ministry until capacity was built to foster accountability. "The UN is not replacing government. The reason we have been asked to come in is because there is urgency in dealing with HIV and while cases in the ministry are being investigated, we cannot let innocent Zambians suffer. We needed to look at an interim recipient to facilitate the procurement of ARVs and other essential drugs," he said.

Nyirongo assured that the engagement of UNDP to procure drugs on behalf of the Ministry of Health would not in any way delay the procurement process.

Keywords: donor aid, accountability, Zambia
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