President Edgar Lungu’s reaction to the latest Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Report has undermined the fight against corruption because institutions of governance tasked to fight the vice have been damaged, says UNZA political science lecturer Lee Habasonda.

Habasonda said while the President may have been right to observe that none of his ministers were mentioned in the latest FIC Trends Report, he expected the Head of State to address the main issue, which was the loss of colossal amounts of resources through suspicious financial flows.

The FIC’s 2018 Money Laundering/Terrorist Financing Trends Report reported a 33 per cent increase in the amount of money lost to financial crimes amounting to K6.1 billion last year, up from K4.5 billion in 2017.

“Firstly, my advice is that, while there might be no ministers involved in this report, it was going to be politically prudent for the President to show concern about these suspicious financial flows and their impact on the general welfare of the people and country. However, he missed an opportunity to renew his government’s commitment to prudent use of resources and build confidence in the austerity measures that government is implementing. Secondly, while the issues raised by FIC may be speculation, the role of the court of public opinion and feelings is critical in dealing with matters of such a nature and I think this is where our beloved President missed the point. While courts and other institutions may pass judgement on matters before them, the court of public opinion is important to take into account if we have to address issues of perception pertaining to integrity, accountability, transparency and good governance,” Habasonda told News Diggers! in an interview.

Habasonda, a former Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) president, regretted that President Lungu did not give the issues raised in the FIC Report the attention they urgently deserved.

“Clearly, the presidential handlers failed the President in that, while the Report did not name anybody, the President’s reaction to the report raises more questions than answers. This is because the FIC directly reports to the President. As it were, the seemingly bad blood we have seen in public is a sign of lack of unity of purpose and coordination in the fight against money laundering and corruption. The reaction by the President has caused collateral damage on institutions that are supposed to investigate or act on this Report. Surely, the advisors to the Head of State would do well to advise the President in advance on sensitive matters such as this one,” said Habasonda.

“I am personally disappointed that this matter is now bungled and we may not address the root causes of the financial leakages in the economy. It appears now that the FIC is pitted against the President and his Cabinet and yet they are all part of the Executive. We need to remember that the people will only stop speculating once the Executive and FIC work in harmony to address the concerns of suspicious financial flows. I wish to urge the President to stay firm and fair if we have to win the fight against corruption.”