The amount of money Zambia lost to financial crimes in 2017 and 2018 totals K10.6 billion, which far surpasses the country’s 2019 health and social sector budgetary allocation, says the CTPD.

Commenting on the FIC’s 2018 Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing Trends Report, which reported a 33 per cent increase in the amount of money lost to financial crimes amounting to K6.1 billion last year, Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD) executive director Isaac Mwaipopo regretted the huge losses, lamenting that the combined total of money lost in the last two years could have been used in key sectors of the economy.

According to the 2019 national budget, government allocated a total of K8,069,128,277 and K2,187,059,905 to the health and social sectors, respectively, bringing the combined total to K10,256,188,182.

He also noted that other pressing challenges, such as delayed salary arrears for UNZA lecturers, could have easily been paid, while the Copperbelt University (CBU) would also have been kept open without needlessly being shut for nearly two months.

“As CTPD, we wish to reiterate that we are extremely concerned because the amounts in question are so huge. If safeguarded, they will go a long way to help the country in its various areas of need. Simple arithmetic suggests that between 2017 and 2018, the country has lost an estimated combined total of K10.6 billion. This amount is far higher than the entire budgetary allocation to the Health Sector and Social Protection combined. Need we also mention that K10.6 billion is more than enough to pay the whole K600 million owed to University of Zambia staff and sort out all the problems at the Copperbelt University, which has remained closed for more than 50 days now,” Mwaipopo stated in a press release, Tuesday.

“It is evident that almost all that corruption has taken its toll on the country and must be addressed with the urgency that it deserves. The economic implications of these illicit financial crimes is so damaging to countries, it results in many devastating outcomes such tax revenue losses, deprivation of citizen’s access to a decent life as well as underdevelopment. What is even more disappointing being that in the two consecutive reports, it is the Politically Exposed Persons (PEPS) that have been cited as the main culprits in these financial related crimes using conduits such as law and audit firms. These are the people that Zambians have trusted with positions of authority to promote and protect public interest but alas they are now stealing from the people they are supposed to protect. This is a betrayal of the people’s trust which should be condemned by all well-meaning Zambians.”

He advised President Edgar Lungu to take the latest FIC Trends Report seriously because the huge amounts of public funds lost had undermined Zambia’s development.

“At a time when the country is in dire need of resources to resources to finance its developmental programmes due to several fiscal challenges, such blatant abuse of resources should not be entertained. We wish to, therefore, urge the Zambian government through President Edgar Lungu with the support of all law enforcement agencies not to take lightly the matters raised in the FIC Report. The President should prevail over the law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with the suspected individuals perpetrating these crimes,” he added.

He urged law enforcement agencies to step up their efforts at bringing culprits to book.

“We would also like to urge all law enforcement officers at Zambia Police, Drug Enforcement Commission and Anti-Corruption Commission not to relent in their fight against these crimes. They should instead double their efforts and without fear or favour deal with all suspected perpetrators of such heinous crimes against the people of Zambia. This is critical in that it will also help this country serve resources not only for development but also for paying back public debt that has risen uncontrollably in the past few years,” stated Mwaipopo.