CSOs wonder what more evidence Lungu needs before he can act on looters

ELEVEN civil society organisations have demanded that President Edgar Lungu immediately gives a road map on ending looting of public funds.

And the CSOs have requested professional bodies like the Law Association of Zambian and the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants to enforce disciplinary provisions and deal with their members involved in corrupt activities.

Reacting to the revelations of the 2017 Financial Intelligence Centre Trends Report and threats to close the centre, civil society organisations anticipate that President Lungu would be a hero by showing corrupt elements referred to in the report the way.

In a statement delivered by Oxfam country director Dailes Judge, the CSOs commended the FIC for its effort and courage exhibited in exposing financial crimes over the past four years.

“The Civil Society Organisations would like to commend the Financial Intelligence Centre for the effort and courage it has exhibited over the past 4 years in exposing financial crimes. They have taken up a task many in Zambia are scared to address. When it seems unfashionable and scary to talk about corruption in some circles, FIC has demonstrated leadership and shown that there will always be some people who will put the country’s interests first,” Judge stated.

She stated that owing to President Lungu’s demand that he would act accordingly when evidence on corruption is availed, the CSOs were left wondering what kind of evidence the Head of State needs before he could act.

Judge stated that it was very disheartening that out of over 400 cases that were disseminated to law enforcement agencies, only one conviction had been secured.

“The President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, is on record saying that when he is availed evidence on corruption, he would act accordingly. We remain wondering what kind of evidence the Republican President still needs before he can act and bring things to order. The latest financial trends report for 2017 makes sad reading. It clearly shows how weak the internal controls and systems have become in this country in ensuring accountability. It is very disheartening that out of the 425 cases that were disseminated to law enforcement agencies, only one conviction has been secured. With an estimated K4.5 billion lost in 2017, we are deeply saddened that K3.9 billion is actually estimated to have come from tax evasion related cases. From the report, it is also established that corruption cases continue to be linked to public procurement contracts with the perpetrators of such crimes being politically exposed individuals or their associates,” she stated adding;

“In responsible governments, the Public Service has a responsibility for ensuring integrity of government processes such as procurement, thereby assuming responsibility for administrative decisions, actions and inactions. However, currently in Zambia, this responsibility has been neglected. We are therefore disappointed that people who are supposed to protect public resources from abuse are in fact the same individuals who are at the forefront of amassing wealth for their own benefit at the expense of the struggling poor. For instance, how do you explain the awarding of tenders by quasi-government institutions to companies that are non-tax compliant and also non-competent for delivery of services?”

Judge stated that it was regrettable that some of those being cited to have been used as conduits for financial crimes, when they should be spearheading the fight against the scourge.

“According to the report, funds obtained illegally through these government contracts have actually been used to buy property such as land and trucks. It is deeply regrettable that lawyers and accountants are being cited to have been used as conduits for financial crimes, when they are in fact, the professionals who should be spearheading the fight against the scourge…see the joy civil servants exhibit when news goes round that they have been paid. It is as if it’s a miracle of manna from heaven has occurred when it’s not supposed to be the case, as these are resources they have worked tirelessly for,” Judge stated.

She noted that the legal and accounting fraternity represent very noble careers which should not be soiled by desperate and crooked elements.

“Ministers have a legislative and political responsibility to oversee actions of government in the jurisdictions under their ambit. We also note that Parliament has the power and mandate to monitor and demand accountability from government institutions and their leaders. However, this has not been the case in Zambia. Parliament has often failed to hold the Executive to account much to the detriment of ordinary Zambians. As a matter of urgency, we demand that the President gives us a road map on how the looting of public funds will be put to an end as this evil act has negatively impacted Zambia’s development,” she stated.

“As such we wish to request professional bodies like the Law Association of Zambia and the Zambia Institute for Chartered Accountants to effectively enforce disciplinary provisions and deal with their members involved in corrupt activities. To this effect, we call on LAZ to act on the revelations in the FIC report about a Law Firm engaged in corrupt transactions. We are also appealing to relevant government departments to enhance systems relating to recovery of stolen State assets deposited in foreign jurisdictions. Zambia can learn from Nigeria, which has been implementing a vigorous recovery of stolen state assets programme. However, we must emphasise that this will require adequate support from the President as we have observed in the case of Nigeria.”

She further said the CSOs would soon seek an audience with President Lungu to submit the evidence he had been requesting for.

“For now, we wish to ask you Mr President, in anticipation that you will be our hero and show the corrupt elements referred to in the FIC the way out, we would be very delighted to see the cited individuals face the law,” stated Judge.
The organisations represented are Transparency International Zambia, Alliance for Community Action, Action Aid, Zambia Council for Social Development, Civil Society for Poverty Reduction and Centre for Trade Policy and Development.

Others are Oxfam Zambia, Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council, Consumer Unit and Trust Society, Operation Young Vote and Caritas Zambia.

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