Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Executive Director Andrew Ntewere has written to the office of the Public Protector, submitting his concern that that Financial Intelligence Center acted unreasonably and illegally by publicising its latest trends report.
In his letter dated 11th June 2018 and addressed to the Public Protector, Ntewewe stated that by publicising the report, the Financial Intelligence Centre interfered with parliament’s oversight function in matters of expenditure of public funds.
“Madam, the FIC did disseminate the following intelligence report to the public between 2016 and 2018: Trends Report 2016 and the Money Laundering/Terrorist Financial Trends Report, 2017. These reports provide innuendoes of what the Centre calls corruption matrixes and money laundering reports, which have been tested by any established standards, by authorised law enforcement agencies, that is, the Drug Enforcement Commission, the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Zambia Police Service. These two reports were published to the public after 2016 amendments to the main act by the Financial Intelligence (Amendment) Act No.4 of 2016 which has taken away or removed the right or power by the centre to inform the public on measures that have been taken to detect, prevent and deter money laundering and financing of terrorism. This is because information gathered by the FIC is not conclusive in nature and cannot by or of itself, constitute evidence and is intended for dissemination to law enforcement agencies only and not for public consumption,” Ntewewe stated in the letter.
“Madam, you will note from these provisions that the information gathered by FIC are, firstly, not conclusive reports of evidentiary nature, but merely reports of financial transactions which the Centre considers to be ‘suspicious’, whose dissemination as categorically stated in 5 (2) (b), is limited to dissemination to law enforcement agencies. It then becomes the duty of the law enforcement agencies to further investigate these ‘suspicious’ transactions and determine whether they warrant further action such as prosecution of the persons or entities involved. To illustrate, a person may grow tomatoes on large scale, sell directly to marketers and end up depositing large amounts of cash and withdrew similar amounts for various activities at his or her farm. In developed economies, such a farmer would be supplying chain stores or wholesalers who will transfer money to his or her account at intervals. Therefore, to use the same methodology to analyse our financial transactions with developed economies will end up with misleading conclusions.”
He further echoed arguments by government that the FIC was only mandated to educate the public.
“Secondly, the mandate of FIC is by law, also limited, to include , education of the public and reporting entities of their obligations and inform them of measures to detect, prevent and deter money laundering and financing of terrorism or proliferations. The legislature’s removal of the words ‘that have been’, after the word ‘measures’ in the new Section 5 (2) (e), was to prevent the centre from making reports to the public on measures that might have been taken. The law, as can be seen above does not mandate the FIC to publish information that is untested as such information can do lasting damage to the name of an otherwise innocent person or entity, whose identity can easily be ascertained from those reports by inference, before they have had the opportunity to explain or otherwise defend themselves,” Ntewewe argued.
He warned that the country risked setting up a parallel Ant-Corruption Commission (ACC) and Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) if intelligence institutions like the FIC leak out potential leads to prosecution information.
And Ntewere proposed that the publication by the FIC be refered to the office of the Auditor General for examination and further to parliament if the matter was of grave concern.
“The publication by the Financial Intelligence Centre, of reports which ought properly to be referred to the Auditor General for examination by that office and, subsequently by parliament is a matter of grave concern. The action or decision taken by FIC to publish this information is therefore unreasonable and illegal and warrants bringing an action under your auspices for further investigation as per Article 244 (2) (a) of the Constitution. It is my hope and prayer that your office will invoke provisions of Section 6 of Act No. 15 of 2016 to address the complaint as provided in the law,” stated Ntewewe.