Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has come out in the open describing the underfunding her office has been experiencing, especially in the financial year of 2019/2020, as ‘a punishment’.
According to Chizuma, the funding given to her office was cut by almost 70 percent making her office to currently owe suppliers K105 million.
The Office of the Ombudsman under the leadership of Chizuma has been at the forefront of investigating cases of malpractices involving public officers, fulfilling its mandate of being a public protector.
Chizuma, together with senior officers from her office, met President Lazarus Chakwera on Friday where among other things the ombudsman notified the president that underfunding has been one of the major challenges in operations of her office.
“The office has suffered from very low funding for a very long time but the 2019/20 allocation was the worst for the office in the sense that our funding was drastically reduced by almost 70 percent. There were times that the office was supposed to be getting K30 million but we ended up get K2 million.
“This affected and continues to affect our operations as we have suppliers that are always on our neck and the total amount that we owe the suppliers is K105 million. We tried with the previous administration to engage them but nothing came. We were simply being punished for doing our work and I think it is wrong,” Chizuma said.
Chizuma has since urged the current administration to ensure that it sufficiently funds her office if its core mandate is to be fulfilled.
She also said it is sad that people that have been benefiting from the National Compensation Tribunal were only those that were politically connected.
In 2017 Chizuma’s office released a report on an investigation on the operation and winding up of the tribunal.
“The revelations out of those investigations were that while the tribunal was set up to look after all the people that had suffered during the one-party era, it was only the politically-connected of that time who managed to get compensation from the tribunal. Our records show that out of 24,000 people, only 3,000 got their compensations,” she said.
The ombudsman further disclosed that her office is also engaging the Ministry of Finance so that it is sufficiently supported to carry out its operations.
Chakwera has since pledged to respect governance institutions, saying he came to power on the platform of respecting the rule of law which is entrenched by such institutions.