Zambia must salvage the sinking Anti-Corruption Commission

The “ALLEGED”, now seemingly inept and embarrassingly incompetence exhibited so far by some of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) officers needs to be addressed and salvaged or the ACC risk going into oblivion and abysmal silence like the sister organization, the inconspicuous Zambian Office of the Public Protector which seems to protect or serves no one. At least they don’t tell anyone what they do apart from getting monthly salaries since the 1970s when it was established. I have covered the Public Protector’s Office in another separate article.

After 10 years of unbroken and dedicated service, I transitioned from the Public Sector into Private Sector on 1st January 2000 (Y2K) only to take a break in 2015 before venturing into the yet another World of the unknown – consultancy services. I have been in that private-sector space for more than 22 years now and I have seen enough stuff. One cardinal lesson I have picked up in work-life balance is that many institutions and people fail to read the mood of the citizens, the systems, the organizations, the institutions, the populace, the sentiments, the feelings, and the writing on the wall. On several occasions, I have seen job adverts flying out in the print and electronic media inviting applications from suitably qualified candidates for positions of Directors, Functional Heads, and Departmental Heads with job descriptions similar to what incumbent and current job holders perform. That has always been a sign of a bad omen. It is always a sign that the heads are about to roll. And Heads do roll for sure in the private sector. They do not encourage or entertain staff members to gather any moss. Many unfortunately have failed to see these signs of the times.

For the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and all staff, it is high time they carried out an internal review, engage external consultants (there are many in Zambia) to take them through the frank-talk process, do a self and deep introspection, self-assessment, face facts and take a look head-on the public views and perception of the conduct of their officers, the operations and execution of their legal mandate and duties and the Zambian expectations which are very high. Times have changed. This is a social media and electronic era. News and videos and information capture, recordings, and dissemination move at a faster pace. The ACC can no longer continue to bury their heads in the sand and pretend all is well.

The Christian Bible (Zambia is a Christian Nation by constitutional declaration and proclamation) clearly confirms that those who do not use their talents and gifts prudently and efficiently will have to blame no one once their talents are taken away. ACC Officers can not continue sitting on their laurels and be complacent and think everything is business as usual. Things are no longer at ease. The Institution is going off the rails. The Dogs are lurking in the corridors. You have to speed up or be pee’d on.

Lest the ACC forgets, I shared in another separate article, that the legal provisions that outlawed corruption in independent Zambia were first contained in the penal code, CAP 146, Chapter X of the laws of Zambia. This legislation was exclusively concerned with corruption offenses by persons employed in the public sector but did not take offense with corruption transactions by or with private bodies or agents. It was therefore inadequate as far as fighting corruption is concerned. The Zambia Police Force then (now Zambia Police Service -ZPS) which was charged with the duty of enforcement was also deemed not able to adequately deal with corruption offenses. In 1980, a bill in parliament was passed that culminated in the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission that was going to exclusively deal with corruption cases.

Taken, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is the Agency that is mandated to spearhead the fight against Corruption in Zambia. It was established in 1980 under an Act of Parliament, the Corrupt Practices Act No. 14. The same way ACC, was established, is the same way another more effective Commission/Agency can be established with new and competent Staff to handle national matters. Take heed. There is no guarantee that incompetent staff will automatically be selected to cross over or indeed continue getting a monthly income (or obtaining money by false pretenses of working). ACC vetted Staff members to join ZRA when it was established in the early 1990s. Those found wanting under the Customs and Excise Departments under MOF were sent packing. You can also face the same fate. Nothing in this real world is guaranteed.

Look at it from this angle, just in September 2019, your colleagues, at the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) had submitted, (literally pleading for and begging) before the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019, that the name of the commission should be changed to “Anti-Drugs, Economic, Financial Crimes Agency”. DEC had noted that under article 235 (c) there is created The Anti-Financial and Economic Crimes Commission (AFECC). The name of this institution suggests it will be responsible for investigating economic and financial crimes. It is worth noting that the Anti-Money Laundering Investigations Unit (AMLIU) under the Drug Enforcement Commission enjoys the mandate to investigate some of the Financial and Economic Crimes.

It was DEC considered view that creating such an institution as prescribed under Article 235 (c) in the Constitution will result in duplicating the work undertaken by the Anti-Money Laundering Investigations Unit. DEC submitted that this suggested institution be replaced by the aforementioned Anti-Money Laundering Investigations Unit which falls under The Drug Enforcement Commission. DEC even proposed that the name of the institution be changed to “Anti-Drugs, Economic and Financial Crimes Agency.” We all know what happened to the controversial Bill 10. Subject for another day.

The other line of thought is that had the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) in Zambia like ACC, DEC, ZPS, ZICTA, ZRA, been effective and robust enough to combat the respective mandated financial crimes, perhaps there would not have been any need to establish yet another commission (AFECC) especially now that the Country should be on austerity measures and ensure the prudent utilization of the scarce financial resources.

We all remember that the creation of the Zambian Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) was partly due to the fact that the original Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – the AMLIU had structural and operational challenges of competently functioning under the DEC Commissioner who had to handle two ACTS/ pieces of legislation.

It may be noted that the two Commissions (ACC and DEC) and ZPS legal mandates would have simply been expanded and strengthened including being appropriately funded and supported to adequately cover other Financial Crimes being anticipated to be covered under the proposed and yet to pe operationalized AFECC.

Just in case, and so that we are all on the same page, International Compliance Association (ICA) considers the following as financial crimes: fraud, ID theft, electronic crime, electronic fraud, embezzlement, plastic money fraud, insurance fraud, Tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist financing, bribery and corruption, market abuse and insider dealing/trading, information security, etc. That unfortunately is not the case now. The rag has been pulled below the LEAs own feet. The scramble for the Financial Crimes legal mandate is real.

But as we all know Zambian Government Gazette number 1123 of 2021 dated Friday 24th September 2021 has already placed the ACC, Anti Financial and Economics Crimes Commission (AFECC), Zambia Security Intelligence Services (ZSIS), and the inconspicuous Office of the Public Protector (OPP) under the oversight of the Office of the President (Plot1). The Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC), Zambia Police Service (ZPS), and National Anti-Terrorism Centre are under the Ministry of Home Affairs and Domestic Security. FIC, ZRA, and Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) are under the Ministry of Finance.

The coordination and consented efforts of these Institutions in the fight against the wide array of Financial Crime Risks in Zambia and the required financial support for each and every one of these many Institutions may pose real challenges in the current economic predicament the Country has found itself in.

Published by Kemman

Regulatory and Independent Consulting Professional with expertise in Financial Crime Risk Compliance encompassing Anti-Money Laundering (AML), Countering Terrorism Financing (CTF), Anti-Bribery & Corruption (ABC – FCPA & UKAB), Global Trade & Sanctions, Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), Know Your Customer (KYC) and Customer Due Diligence (CDD), Internal Audit Testing, Reviews, Validation, Risk Assessment. Worked in Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America (USA). Banking & FinTech, Anti-Sex & Human Trafficking Advocate, FOREX & Cryptocurrency trading, Travel & Tours, Telecommunications & Energy.

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