Prominent Lusaka lawyer Dickson Jere has advised Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) to take the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to task over why the commission does not seem to be investigating individuals who have questionable amounts of wealth.
Commenting on TIZ president Rueben Lifuka’s suggestion that President Edgar Lungu should order for lifestyle audits for everyone serving in his government, including himself, as a way of fighting corruption this year, Jere told News Diggers! that the closest law which was close to a lifestyle audit was one where the ACC could demand an explanation on how someone had become rich.
“If TIZ wants a lifestyle audit for politicians, that needs to be put into law. Anything that is outside the law will be illegal. At the moment in Zambia, we don’t have ‘life-[style]’ audits per se. But what we do have, which I think is adequate is that the Anti-Corruption Act provides that any individual can be questioned to justify the source of his wealth or property, which more or less is a lifestyle audit because if they come to you and ask you ‘how did you acquire this property?’, you should be able to justify. So, maybe what TIZ should be saying is, why has the ACC not been proactive in making sure that those who are suspected to have been involved in corruption are subjected to that particular law so that they can justify,” Jere advised.
“The law is there, but we have not seen it being applied to people who are have been mentioned or suspected to have been involved in corruption. It is more about implementation or enforcement of the law as opposed to subjecting everybody across the board to lifestyle audit. Secondly, is that, those holding the position of (Cabinet) Minister are required by law and those who are members of parliament to do annual asset declarations before the Chief Justice under the Ministerial and Parliamentary Code of Conduct Act. So, maybe TIZ should take keen interest in reviewing the declarations, which were made each year and see the procession of how one who declared one house within a year has three or four houses. That will then allow ACC to follow-up on lifestyle audits.”
And Jere said that the proposed lifestyle audit should not only be targeted at politicians, but also Permanent Secretaries and top government directors.
“I would be adding that the Ministerial and Parliamentary Code of Conduct at the moment is very restrictive; it only deals with members of parliament and Ministers. It should be subjected to deal with all government officials at the level of assistant director and above because directors and assistant directors and Permanent Secretaries are the chief executives; they are the ones who make the decisions everyday. If a politician has to do any transaction, that transaction has to pass through the Permanent Secretaries and Directors because they are the most influential in terms of making any transaction go through, and yet they are not part and parcel of the code of conduct, which requires that there is the annual declaration of assets. For such, I would be saying that they should be subjected [to] as opposed to only leaving the politicians alone,” said Jere.