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Who was keeping the ACC, DEC’s teeth all along?

THE advent of multipartism has brought with it several challenges to our governance system. And one of them is the performance of State institutions such as investigative agencies. Since the first MMD government of Frederick Chiluba, agencies such as the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Drug Enforcement Commission have been politicised – at times polarized. Politicised in the sense that they fail to perform their mandate effectively if the culprits are those serving in government. They wait for such a government to lose power, that’s when they swing in action to pursue those perceived to have been corrupt. And yet, these are institutions established by an Act of Parliament; meaning that even the senior officers who control them are constitutional office bearers. We know that both the Director General at the Anti-Corruption Commission and her/his counterpart at the Drug Enforcement Commission are constitutional officer bearers, hence their appointments being ratified by Parliament.

But instead of following those committing crimes while in office, DEC and ACC officers wait for such people to leave office, that’s when they follow them. We saw this in 2002 when Levy Mwanawasa took over from Chiluba and embarked on an anti-corruption crusade against all those who worked with the second president of our Republic. Again, all those perceived to be corrupt in Mwanawasa’s administration could still not be touched; investigative wings had to wait for a change of leadership. Fast forward, when Rupiah Banda was in office, our investigative wings went to sleep despite every evidence of visible corrupt acts and other vices. They had to wait for a change of government before they could act. When Michael Sata defeated Rupiah, again the ACC and DEC swung into action. They just got self-ignited, no one pushed them.

We are seeing a similar trend today. The whole nation knew and saw how corrupt Edgar Lungu’s government was. Part of the evidence was produced by the Financial Intelligence Centre and the Auditor General’s reports. But the ACC and DEC were quiet, seemingly looking the other way. Now that the government has changed with President Hakainde Hichilema showing commitment to the rule of law, these institutions have again woken up to action. They seem to be motivated. They have realised their mandate!

Today they are telling us that all along they have had teeth to bite. If indeed they had, why didn’t they bite? Who confiscated their teeth or who made them blunt when Edgar and his minions were in power?

While the Financial Intelligence Centre has no mandate to arrest, this is the preserve of the ACC, DEC and the Zambia Police Service. But all these three have been compromised by politics.

To this end Joseph Moyo, a social worker, has called for a commission of inquiry into why the ACC, DEC and FIC were failing to function under the PF administration.

Moyo, The African Woman Foundation founder, says the three State institutions should not just become active now without explaining to the nation why they were moribund during the PF reign.

“As TAWF we believe that there was so much failure by the leadership of these institutions…if it is true that there was so much stealing, so much corruption, so much abuse of our natural resources, so much abuse of our money then we should not just focus on these alleged to have done wrong, but we should also focus on the leaders of these institutions. We must demand accountability from those who did nothing as opposed to those who are accused of having done something,” says Moyo. “This is about the future. It is about where we are going so that we ensure that there is no more corruption, no more abuse. It is about the future, but we cannot transverse the future without looking at the past. What were the failures that came along the way that caused these institutions to fail to stop corruption – what went wrong? Our citizens are victims of the failures of the past which have brought the country to collapse economically. Failure cannot be left without knowing what led to that failure because failure of the past can come to haunt us in future. So, we are demanding that a commission of inquiry be set up. Between August 12 and today, who was keeping their teeth all along? We want to know as a country what or who was making them fail to perform their functions because these leaders swore to protect the Constitution and not the individual.”

Indeed, who was keeping the ACC and DEC’s teeth in the last seven years?

Our investigative wings must be proactive. They must appreciate that corruption has a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable, increasing costs and reducing access to services, including health, education and justice. They should realise, for instance, that corruption in the procurement of drugs and medical equipment drives up costs and can lead to sub-standard or harmful products.

As the World Bank Group has warned, “corruption erodes trust in government and undermines the social contract. This is cause for concern across the globe, but particularly in contexts of fragility and violence, as corruption fuels and perpetuates the inequalities and discontent that lead to fragility, violent extremism, and conflict. Corruption impedes investment, with consequent effects on growth and jobs. Countries capable of confronting corruption use their human and financial resources more efficiently, attract more investment, and grow more rapidly.”

And Pratibha Patil warns that, “Corruption is the enemy of development, and of good governance. It must be got rid of. Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective.”

Prashant Bhushan emphasises that, “The main reasons for the growth and institutionalisation of corruption are: a culture of secrecy with lack of transparency, and weak institutions for securing the accountability of public servants, such as the vigilance bodies, the criminal investigative agencies and the judiciary.”

We know that these investigative agencies have a legal mandate to operate independently. But we also understand that we have just come out of a regime where criminality was normal to them. It became a norm!

Whoever tried to work professionally was either transferred to remote areas or retired in national interest.

Nevertheless, we hope that normalcy returns to our agencies forever because they have the law on their side. They should not be mocking the public by swinging into action whenever there is a change of government. Instead, they should start with the current government by investigating those that will engage in criminal activities. And like Moyo, we also ask, who keeps their teeth when they are needed the most?

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