ACC spokesperson not aware that Amos was probed, cleared

Anti Corruption Commission corporate affairs manager Timothy Moono says his office is not aware that President Edgar Lungu’s spokesperson Amos Chanda was investigated for corruption and found to be clean.

And Moono says even if ACC cannot investigate corruption allegations against the Head of State, members of the public should feel encouraged to submit such evidence so that it can be kept for safe-keeping.

In an exclusive interview with News Diggers, Moono said he heard about Chanda’s probe by the ACC and his subsequent clearance from the President’s mouth for the first time.

He said it was possible that Chanda was investigated and cleared but could not explain why, even after finding Chanda clean, the Commission did not inform the public until the President made the revelation.

“I was hearing that for the first time. I didn’t know that we had an inquiry against Mr Chanda, so it was news to me. I am not aware what the investigation was about. So if he was called, interviewed and cleared, it means that was the nature of the inquiry,” Moono said.

“Not all these cases are in public domain. Not all these cases I am privy to because of the way we operate, the ‘need to know’ basis. So those that find themselves in public domain are those that we talk about. But there are others which are not in public domain which you will never know, which I may never know because investigations have to be done quietly, swiftly to avoid leakages.”

Asked if after the President announced that Chanda was found to be clean, the investigative wing of the ACC informed his office about the details of the investigations, Moono said he is still not aware to date, that the State House press aide was investigated and cleared.

Asked if he expected the public to believe what the President said when the ACC public relations office was expressing ignorance over the statement, Moono said the Head of State was trying to elaborate a point.

“Unless you are trying to suggest that some of that statement may not be accurate, I am not aware. Like I said, we investigate in different ways and most of it is done quietly. The President felt it fit because he was elaborating a matter when he was speaking during the International Anti Corruption Day. I think he wanted to give an example of what is going on. I think he was in order; I mean he is the Head of State so he is privy to that information. I am sure, at the time Mr Chanda was coming for an interview, Mr Chanda must have requested for permission from the President to say ‘give me time to go and respond, the ACC has asked for information about this’, so I am sure if you ask Mr Chanda what the investigation was about, he will be able to give you details,” Moono said.

And Moono said the ACC cannot act against President Lungu’s alleged corruption, even if there was evidence because he has immunity.

“The President has immunity, so if you have evidence against the Head of State on corruption, you have all the right to report to any law enforcement agencies including the Anti Corruption Commission. What normally happens is that if the Head of State is entangled in anything, that information is for us to know and to keep. It becomes intelligence on our part, but we cannot do anything about it because he has immunity. So I think even the police, DEC, if you were to go and report, they will receive it, but they will not act, because the President has immunity,” said Moono.

Below is the transcript of the interview:

Question: How do you deal with a senior government official who doesn’t want to cooperate?

Answer: Let’s say I want to investigate Joseph Mwenda. I have summoned Joseph Mwenda to come for investigations but he doesn’t want to be available; I issue a callout he doesn’t come; I follow him at the office, he doesn’t cooperate. Then you commit another offence of obstructing an inquiry, you don’t want us to find out the truth.

Q: Is it part of procedure for ACC to notify the Head of State when you want to investigate one of his ministers or any senior government official?

A: The Head of State is the appointing authority for ministers, just like a chief executive officer of any institution is the appointing authority of its officers. So when you want to summon somebody you are investigating, you just don’t barge into somebody’s house. You go and inform the chief executive officer that “I am from the Anti Corruption Commission and I would like to interview your officer on such a matter”, or you don’t have to disclose the details. That is a courteous way of informing the Chief Executive Officer that you have an enquiry against this person who he appointed, so that they answer to the allegations. It is a courteous way of doing it, but it is not a must. It is not mandatory.

Q: Have you had cases where the President advised you not to go ahead with a particular investigation against senior government officials?

A: I cannot remember any such incidence. Nothing of that sought has come to my attention. I am not in investigations, so the operation guys could know, but I am not aware of any such incident where we inform the President and we have not gotten a response in favour. But you must note that it’s not all cases that we must courteously inform the President. There are other case that we just proceed, because it is our mandate to investigate.

Q: What happens when the President decides not to suspend the accused government official to allow you to investigate in an easier way? This officer remains with constitutional powers in the position he serves, but you have to investigate him, how do you proceed?

A: Whichever way it goes, whether the President has asked this person to step aside or not, we have procedure to do our investigations and we have done them. We still get the same results. The only thing, our concern is that when a person remains in office when they are being investigated, they begin to temper with the evidence that we are looking for. So where we suspect that this person, by virtue of him staying in office they are likely to temper with the evidence, we are definitely going to request that this person steps aside.

Q: During the International Anti Corruption Day, the President said that it’s not always that he will suspend a person accused of corruption. He gave reference to his Press Aide, Mr Amos Chanda, that the ACC had summoned him on a number of occasions and he was found to be clean. Is that true?

A: I was hearing that for the first time. I didn’t know that we had an inquiry against Mr Chanda, so it was news to me. I am not aware what the investigation was about. So if he was called, interviewed and cleared, it means that was the nature of the inquiry. Let me state also that we have so many investigations that we are doing involving different types of people, high profile, low profile and all these different types of cases. Not all these cases are in public domain. Not all these cases I am privy to because of the way we operate, the “need to know” basis. So those that find themselves in public domain are those that we talk about. But there are others which are not in public domain which you will never know, which I may never know because investigations have to be done quietly, swiftly to avoid leakages. It is one of the ways in which we ensure that at the end of the day, you get the amount of information that you deserve. Imagine the amount of publicity that we get on corruption cases, others want to get at each other’s throat, but does it help the investigations? By and large, it doesn’t. When information gets in the press, it means you are alerting those that you are trying to investigate. So we do some of these inquiries quietly and we try as much as possible to keep them quiet. But sometimes, we are forced, because when someone says there is corruption here, we have to inform the public that our findings on this matter are like this – and it’s already in public domain. Otherwise, our principle is not to investigate cases in the media.

Q: Since the President made this revelation, has your office been informed that there was such an investigation and if so, what was the investigation about?

A: No!

Q: Even if he was found to be clean, as we are told, there was still no need for your office to be notified?

A: No!

Q: The President made this statement, which you the ACC had not mentioned yourselves, is the public supposed to believe what the President said? I ask this because your office, which is the PR office and information centre for corruption investigations in Zambia is not aware of the statement that the President made. How much should the public believe then?

A: Unless you trying to suggest that some of that statement may not be accurate because I am not aware. Like I said, we investigate in different ways and most of it is done quietly. The President felt it fit because he was elaborating a matter when he was speaking during the International Anti Corruption Day. I think he wanted to give an example of what is going on. I think he was in order; I mean he is the Head of State so he is privy to that information. I am sure, at the time Mr Chanda was coming for an interview, Mr Chanda must have requested for permission from the President to say ‘give me time to go and respond, the ACC has asked for information about this’, so I am sure if you ask Mr Chanda what the investigation was about, he will be able to give you details.

Q: If a member of the Public has information against the President with regards to corruption, where can I report that information and where do I take the evidence against the Head of State?

A: The way the system is working in Zambia is that the President has immunity over a number of cases or issues that may arise. So if you have evidence against the Head of State on corruption, you have all the right to report to any law enforcement agencies including the Anti Corruption Commission. What normally happens is that if the Head of State is entangled in anything, that information is for us to know and to keep. It becomes intelligence on our part, but we cannot do anything about it because he has immunity. So I think even the police, DEC, if you were to go and report, they will receive it, but they will not act, because the President has immunity. And why is there immunity? Because the President needs to operate. That office, the presidency, needs to operate without… maybe the word is freely. Imagine if we were to, all of us, as citizens came and said ‘no the President did this’, are you sure the President will operate? No, I don’t think that is the spirit of how we would want that office to operate. The President is the father figure for everybody, so if you have any information against him, you are free to report to the ACC, Zambia Police or any other institution and we will keep that information?

Q: Does that information become useful when the President leaves office and his immunity has been lifted?

A: Your guess is as good as mine.

         

Joseph Mwenda

About Joseph Mwenda

Joseph Mwenda is a Zambian journalist experienced in political news writing, photography and video editing.
Email: joseph [at] diggers [dot] news

View All Posts

Comment on article

Comment on article:

  Subscribe  
Notify of

Send this to a friend