Financial crimes are expected to reduce in 2018 because of increased public awareness, says President Edgar Lungu’s Spokesperson Amos Chanda.

And Chanda says President Lungu is eager to have in place a functional Auditor General, but there are constitutional impediments preventing him from nominating a substantive office holder.

Meanwhile, newly-appointed Deputy Inspector General of Police Bonny Kapeso has vowed to clamp down on criminals.

Speaking to journalists at State House, Thursday, Chanda revealed that Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Director-General Mary Tshuma met with President Lungu, Wednesday, on an FIC Assessment ahead of the forthcoming FIC 2018 Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing Trends Report due to be released early next year.

The FIC’s 2017 Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing Trends Report released earlier in May revealed that Zambia incurred losses last year linked to financial crimes such as corruption and tax evasion, among others, amounting to a record-breaking K4.5 billion.

Asked whether there was an indication that there will be a downward trend in the amount of financial crimes due to be disclosed in next year’s Trends Report, Chanda expressed optimism that criminal incidences would be reduced owing to increased public awareness.

“We do not know the full content of what Director-General Mary Chirwa has, but her indication is that the Assessment was positively conducted. But because she has insisted, recorded and reported to the President that there is increased public awareness, and that their access to information is greater than it has ever been at any point in history, I can project that there could be a reduction because there is greater awareness,” Chanda responded.

“And the media must be thanked for that interest, civil society must be thanked…but what the President is insisting is to allow full latitude and freedom to institutions, such as FIC, ACC [Anti-Corruption Commission] so that, when they have begun to probe someone, no one must be telling them when that person must be convicted; no one must be telling them which direction they must go; no one must be telling them who must be excluded or not…”

Chanda pointed out that the FIC officially invited the Head of State at next year’s launch, to which he has since accepted to grace the occasion.

“First of all, whether there will be an increase or not is another matter. What is pleasing the President is that there is a report, that there is increased public awareness on financial crimes, money laundering activities. And more importantly, she [Tshuma] reports that her institution has greater access to information about possible offences of money laundering, financial crimes and financing of terrorism,” Chanda added.

“It is the President’s hope that there could be a reduction [in financial crimes], which is why he wants to give this institution a high-profile presence by him appearing at the launch of this [2018] Trends Report.”

And asked when President Lungu would eventually nominate a substantive Auditor General, Chanda said the Head of State was eager to move the process along, but that there were constitutional impediments that needed to be addressed.

“In line with some of the discussions he had with Mr Speaker [Dr Patrick Matibini], it’s a whole range of decisions and systems that are linked between the Executive and Parliament. The appointment of the Auditor General is not just a function of the Executive; it is also the function of Parliament. When the President sends a name there, how long will Parliament take? The President has no control over Parliament; it is a totally independent organization,” he explained.

“The President is working very hard to make sure that all the constitutional impediments that has delayed the appointment of the substantive holder; if there must be a stop-gap measure to circumvent certain processes so that the Auditor General substantively is appointed…the President is consulting with all the arms of government to ensure that there is a substantive holder.”

He further said President Lungu was concerned with the protracted delay.

“He’s concerned that it’s taken long, but the [Republican] Constitution prohibits him from nominating without following the Constitution. So, the President is very desirous to ensure that there is a substantive holder in that very important office of governance and oversight institution,” he said.

“Forget the noises, controversies around the Constitution; can we agree that we need the Auditor General to be appointed? Can we have a bipartisan agreement? PF and UPND, and take the Bill to Parliament and agree, and the Auditor General is appointed? Can we agree that there is need for the State Audit Commission to be put in place? That’s how important it is that you must separate the noises from real issues. For now, the President remains a custodian of the Constitution, and will stick by the provisions of the Constitution. But he is very concerned that some of these constitutional restrictions are creating near-paralysis in certain institutions.”

Meanwhile, newly-appointed Deputy Inspector General of Police Bonny Kapeso vowed to clamp down on criminals.

“I really do not like people who are notorious. Operations in Zambia Police is a bit ‘notorious’, and I would love to enjoy that,” Kapeso told journalists after being sworn-in yesterday at State House.

When asked what his major objectives were going to be following his appointment, Kapeso indicated that he would be a link between Inspector-General of Police Kakoma Kanganja and the lower rank-and-file officers.

“Well, I am going to provide a link between the office of the Inspector General of Police and the foot soldiers, who are on the ground; the constables, sergeants, who are on the ground doing operations. Because riots, operations, criminals are on the ground, so we will meet them on the ground! I enjoy that; I enjoy confrontation when they want to challenge law enforcement officers,” warned Kapeso.

He further said he wants to incorporate officers to be part and parcel of the Zambia Police Service.

“I would like to ensure that officers become counted; they are part and parcel of the Zambia Police Service; the constable, who is on the ground, will have full support from my office,” said Kapeso.

Earlier, President Lungu also appointed Major General Kapotowe Chintu as new Zambia Air Force (ZAF) Deputy Air Commander and Diamond Likashi, who assumes Kapeso’s former position as the substantive Southern Province Commissioner of Police.