National Restoration party (NAREP) president Elias Chipimo has warned that the Auditor General’s office remaining vacant for too long may only increase the levels of impunity among culprits who are politically-connected.

And Chipimo says until Zambians decide to change the type of leadership in office, cases of missing evidence at court will not stop.

In an interview, Chipimo expressed concern that there would be an increase in the levels of impunity to those who may be politically-connected if Auditor General’s office remains vacant for too long.

“One thing that may actually impact is people’s perception of what they can get away with because if there is no substantive office-holder, it can increase the sense of impunity that is already there. As you know, right now, even with the identified cases of fraud, theft and abuse of office; because there are no prosecutions against those who are seen to be politically-connected; people feel they can get away with literally murder. And so, where you have no substantive office-holder, it just reinforces that sense of impunity,” Chipimo warned.

And Chipimo noted that the ability by public officials to ignore the report has been a major problem.

“In theory, it doesn’t matter that the office of the Auditor General remains vacant because the key issue is the release of the report. And that can be done even by an individual who is acting in that capacity. The big problem with the Auditor Generals’ office, however, has been the ability of public officials ignoring the report and the lack of specific powers on the part of the Auditor General to follow-up on the specific cases of irregularity, abuse and misapplication that are identified in the report. So, their job is just to audit and produce a report. It’s the job of other organisations and state entities and, indeed, leaders to act,” Chipimo observed.

“So whether you have an Auditor General there in the substantive role or an acting individual playing that role, the challenge still remains that the institution beyond producing a report has no teeth to take up the specific cases of abuse and misappropriation and misapplication that are identified in the report. It actually doesn’t change the fact that the report would still be produced. It would be produced by the acting person, but even if you have the substantive position-holder, the problem with that office is that it has no teeth to bite the culprits identified.”

And Chipimo said there was need for Parliament to take up the mandate of prosecuting those cited in the Auditor General’s report.

“So, what we actually need is a follow-up process on what Parliament can take up and pursue to make sure that the individuals are prosecuted. It needs to link back to Cabinet office so that disciplinary action is taken where there is misappropriation. Law enforcement agencies should be linked in as well so that there is actually criminal prosecution from the DPP’s [Director of Public Prosecution’s] office where there is illegalities and fraud that is identified. All of these things are actually identified every year, but we never see any action. So, whether there is a substantive position or not, it doesn’t change anything,” Chipimo added.

Meanwhile, Chipimo said until Zambians decide to change the type of leadership in office, cases of missing evidence at court would not stop.

He was reacting to the missing cocaine, which went missing at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court last month.

“It’s not the first time it has happened. These cases of missing evidence are rife. This is not new and all this does is that it really confirms that our society is now rotten to the very core. Corruption, theft, abuse of office, stealing of evidence is now such a common thing that it’s almost accepted as part and parcel of how we do business in this country, which is very sad. I can assure you that very little will be done to get to the bottom of this issue. It has to first start with the leadership. We have to make sure that we put in power the leadership which cares for this country. Until you have that, I can tell you there will be very little that will change. So, we must start thinking very hard as we approach 2021 [on] what kind of leadership we really want,” said Chipimo.