Ten Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) say they remain wondering what kind of evidence of corruption President Edgar Lungu wants to warrant him to take action, if he cannot act on the 2017 FIC trends report.

And the CSOs have promised to release the names of the suspects refered to in the financial trends report.

Speaking at a joint press briefing in Lusaka, Tuesday, the CSOs said it was disheartening that out of the 425 cases disseminated to law enforcement agencies, only one conviction had been secured.

The CSOs which included TIZ, Action Aid Zambia, Oxfam Zambia, Alliance for Community Action, Zambia Council for Social Development, CSPR, CTPD, NGOCC, CUTS, Operation Young Vote, and Caritas Zambia also condemned the attacks on FIC Director Mary Tshuma.

“The President of the Republic of Zambia is on record demanding that when he is availed with evidence on corruption, he would act accordingly. We remain wondering what kind of evidence the Republican President still needs before he can act and bring things to order. The latest financial trends report for 2017 makes sad reading, it clearly shows how weak the internal controls and systems have become in this country in ensuring accountability. The CSOs would like to commend the Financial Intelligence Centre for the effort and courage it has exhibited over the past four years in exposing financial crimes. They have taken up a task [which] many in Zambia are scared to address. When it seems unfashionable and scary to talk about corruption in some circles, FIC has demonstrated leadership and shown that there will always be some people who will put the country’s interest first,” Oxfam Country Director Dailes Judge said on behalf of the other CSOs.

Judge further expressed disappointment that the people who were supposed to protect public resources from abuse were in fact the same individuals in the fore front of amassing wealth for their own benefits.

“We are therefore disappointed that people who are supposed to protect public resources from abuse are in fact the same individuals who are at the fore front of amassing wealth for their own benefit at the expense of the struggling poor. For instance how do you explain the awarding of tenders by quasi government institutions to companies that are non-tax compliant and also non-competent for delivery of services? Judge asked.

She also noted that most of the corruption cases linked to public procurement contracts were perpetrated by politically exposed individuals and their associates.

“It is very disheartening that out of the 425 cases that were disseminated to law enforcement agencies, only one conviction has been secured. With an estimated K4.5 billion kwacha loss in 2017. We are deeply saddened that K3.9 billion is actually estimated to have come from tax evasion related cases. From the report, it is also established that corruption cases continue to be linked to public procurement contracts with the perpetrators of such crimes being politically exposed individuals or their associates,” she said.

The CSOs also requested the professional bodies like LAZ and ZICA to effectively enforce disciplinary provisions and deal with their members involved in corrupt activities.

“We believe our comrades from the legal and accounting fraternity/profession represent very noble careers which should not be soiled by desperate and crooked elements. As such we wish to request professional bodies like the Law Association of Zambia and the Zambia Institute for Chattered Accounts to effectively enforce disciplinary provisions and deal with their members involved in corrupt activities. To this effect, we call on LAZ to act on the revelations in the FIC report about a law firm engaged in corruption transactions. Ministers have a legislative and political responsibility to oversee actions of government in the jurisdictions under their ambit. We also note that parliament has the power and mandate to monitor and demand accountability from government institutions and their leaders. However, this has not been the case in Zambia. Parliament has often failed to hold the Executive to account much to the detriment of ordinary Zambians. As a matter of urgency, we demand that the President gives us a roadmap on how the looting of public funds will be put to an end as this evil act has negatively impacted Zambia’s Development,” said Judge.

“We are also appealing to relevant government departments to enhance systems relating to recovery of stolen state assets deposited in foreign jurisdictions. Zambia can learn from Nigeria which has been implementing a vigorous recovery of stolen state assets programme. However, we must emphasise that this will require adequate support from the President as we have observed in the case of Nigeria.”
Judge said the CSO’s would soon publicise their version of the trends report in which suspects would be named.

CSOs will soon share their version of the published cases in the 2017 report, where we will fill-in the blanks so that the public can know the football club that was bought using illegal money. The Zambian people are tired of having a few untrustworthy public servants and political figures masquerading to be representing public interest when in actual sense they are pursuing personal benefits,” said Judge.

And NGOCC Board Chairperson Serah Longwe said instead of attacking the FIC director, government was better placed in dealing with the issues that were raised in the report.

“Instead of attacking the director of FIC, they should deal with the issues that she has brought out not herself as an individual. We may see that it is just a young woman being targeted but next time they will target many other people. So when she is being attacked, that means we are all being attacked for doing our job. So people who have been employed to be whistle blowers…that is the job she has been given as a whistle blower and it is in the Act. And now she is being targeted, what about all of us who have seen something going wrong and we speak out? So it is the duty of all of us to stand by her and spell out how wrong,” Longwe said.
Meanwhile Alliance for Community Action Executive Director Laura Miti said Zambians wouldn’t be questioning much on issues of financial irregularities if people like the Speaker of the National Assembly, the DPP, and the judges were doing the right thing.

“I think one thing we should note is that the attacks on Mary Tshuma are more of a treat or warning to other people who will be able to do what she has done for the country. So those who are attacking her are afraid that other people might stand up and carry up their duty effectively like Mary has [and[] because if they manage to bully Mary, what they would have succeeded in doing is sending a message to everybody else who is in the system to say ‘if you do the right thing, if you stand up and tell the nation the truth, we will come after you’,” said Miti.

“So we, as civil societies, are very concerned about Mary and we are also very proud of her. We would like to send her a message that we consider her a hero. And then there are others in the system who we are calling on to also stand up and protect the nation. we have got people like the Speaker of the National Assembly, we have got people like the DPP, we have Judges, all these if they did the right thing, we would not be seated here and talking about billions and of kwachas, dollars being stolen.”