Britain freezes aid to Zambia over corruption concerns

The UK government has frozen direct financial aid to the Zambian government after concerns about widespread corruption.

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 £48m (R936m) 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 governing 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 (R59m) that was allegedly embezzled.

Lungu’s spokesperson Amos Chanda said that Britain had told Zambia it would suspend support to the country’s development and education ministries.

“It is an exaggeration to say they have frozen bilateral aid,” he said. “They did not officially communicate but we summoned the High Commissioner, who confirmed.”

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