CTPD executive director Isaac Mwaipopo says instead of moves to weaken the Financial Intelligence Center, government must strengthen it by giving it the mandate to name institutions and individuals involved in illicit financial flows.

Commenting on revelations that some criminals were threatening to clump down operations of the FIC, Mwaipopo described the intentions as unacceptable.

“This is unacceptable and must be stopped. Civil society stands ready to partner with key institutions like FIC in promoting transparency and accountability. If Zambia is to attain any of the priorities set out in the 7th National Development Plan, it has to begin by taking seriously work being done by FIC and other similar institutions like the auditor General’s Office. It beats logic to be complaining about IMF delaying to come to our aid, when we are failing to close loopholes that lead to illicit financial flows. We urge the government to consider further strengthening FIC so that it can be going a step further by naming and publishing the individuals and institutions they submit to investigative wings and this will greatly help the local communities and general public to learn more and get involved in demanding for transparency,” Mwaipopo said.

“Threats to clump down the operations of the Financial Intelligence Centre should not be entertained. It’s actually very saddening to hear that there are individuals that are threatening the existence of key institutions promoting transparency and helping the public know the many suspicious dealings of individuals and cooperate institutions. According to the Financial Intelligence Centre Act No 46 of 2010, the Centre was set up as the central national agency for receiving, requesting, analyzing and disseminating intelligence reports relating to suspicious financial transactions, bordering on money laundering, terrorist financing and other serious crimes. This is critical as it helps in promoting transparency and accountability.”
He said if government wanted institutions like the IMF to take their requests seriously, they must protect institutions like the Auditor General’s office and the FIC.

“CTPD’s expectation from every well-meaning Zambian who wants to see the best for this country is to render support to this strategic institution. In fact, if the government wants institutions like the International Monetary Fund to take their requests for a bailout package seriously, they should demonstrate interest in protecting and promoting work being done by institutions like the Financial Intelligence Centre and the Auditor General’s Office,” he said.

“The silence from the gate keepers and custodians of public interest is worrying and a serious betrayal to the trust and confidence the people had when they entrusted them with power to perform duties on behalf of the citizens. It’s disheartening that we now live in a country where abuse and failure to account for public funds is the new normal and institutions that are meant to safeguard public interest are now more proactive in pursuing people that are perceived to hold different political persuasions than the real enemies of progress cited in key national documents like the auditor general’s report and financial trends reports.”

Mwaipopo urged government to focus on acting on the revelations of the FIC.

“As highlighted in the recent FIC public engagement, the country should be more worried that some of the companies getting public contracts, their ownership is very opaque and unknown. The names of the companies differ from the people claiming to be owners, this potentially means that some of those companies are surrogates. This calls for formulation and enactment of legislation that promotes transparency on who the beneficial owners really are, especially that revelations suggest that some of the companies they investigated got government contracts and are not registered for tax while some belong to politically exposed individuals who front surrogates to conduct business on their behalf,” Mwaipopo said.

He however disagreed with those asking government to give FIC powers to prosecute saying there were enough law enforcement agencies already.

“We have also noted that there are actually calls from some sections of society suggesting that FIC must be given more powers to prosecute individuals they identify to be on the other side of the law. We do not agree with this suggestion as we think it might compromise the original mandate of FIC. Moreover, Zambia has more than enough institutions that can prosecute individuals or cooperates cited in reports on public finance systems and management. The challenge is around the failure for these institutions to operate according to the mandate they were established for which creates a big gap in the financial management system,” said Mwaipopo.