LONDON/LUSAKA. – The UK government has frozen direct financial aid to the Zambian government over concerns about corruption.
The alleged multi-million dollar fraud involves the creation of shell companies and the diversion of money meant for poorer families, the journal Africa Confidential reports.
Ireland, Finland and Sweden have also suspended aid.
The freeze comes at a time when President Edgar Lungu’s government is under increasing financial pressure.
The British High Commissioner to Zambia, Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, confirmed the aid freeze in a tweet, saying that the UK government has a “zero-tolerance approach to fraud & corruption”.
He also indicated that there is an investigation into the alleged corruption and the government will decide on its next move once this has been completed.
A statement from the Swedish government’s aid agency, Sida, said that there had been “strong suspicions of irregularities”.
It also said that Finland and Ireland had joined Sweden and the UK in the aid freeze.
More than 50 percent of Zambia’s 17 million people live below the poverty line, the World Bank says.
The alleged corruption has affected Zambia’s health, education and local government ministries, African Confidential reports.
It says that a report by Zambia’s auditor general highlighted that people in the ministry of education established shell companies to divert funds.
A scheme to provide poorer families with direct grants has also been affected, as the money was used to buy expensive vehicles, Africa Confidential adds.
The UK government has not confirmed the amount of aid that has been affected.
The aid suspension comes as Zambia’s debt levels are coming under increasing scrutiny.
The International Monetary Fund has said that it has suspended lending to the country as it is worried that its debt is unsustainable. – BBC