Only criminals will want the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Trends Reports concealed, says a consortium of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and governance activists, who have collectively condemned government’s sustained attacks on the institution.

In a statement, Thursday, ActionAid, Caritas, Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA), Chapter One Foundation Limited and governance activists MacDonald Chipenzi and Pamela Chisanga observed that government wanted to keep the cases of theft highlighted in the FIC’s 2018 Trends Report hidden as evidenced by its unwarranted attacks on the institution and its staff.

They, however, cautioned that Zambia remained a signatory to various international agreements on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing, which required the FIC to take up the very mandate that government was condemning and trying to stifle.

“We, the undersigned civil society organisations (CSOs), wish to express our alarm at statements being generated by government officials, including the Republican President and the Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services, against the recent Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Trends Report. In a statement dated 12th June, 2019, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services released a statement calling the FIC’s executive director Ms Mary Chirwa’s response to attacks on her report as ‘unprofessional and uncalled-for from a person presiding over an important governance institution.’ The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, Mr Chanda Kasolo, has further stated that Ms Chirwa is acting as ‘judge and ‘jury” by exposing these criminal activities. Most alarmingly, Mr Kasolo has stated on behalf of the government that the Financial Intelligence Centre Act ‘requires to be looked at’…” the statement read.

“Zambia is a signatory to various international agreements on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing that require the FIC to undertake the very investigations that the government is now condemning. In fact, Zambia can be blacklisted internationally for failing to adhere to these international agreements. Secondly, we are concerned that the government has taken a very casual approach to corruption and public accountability in Zambia. The mere fact that those persons referred to in the FIC Report are Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) seems to suggest that the government views these people as untouchable because they are politically-exposed.”

And the CSOs commended the FIC’s efforts in continuing to perform their mandated duties under extreme pressure from those they claimed did not mean well for Zambians.

“The FIC has exposed the high levels of corruption in the country. The money being stolen and misappropriated by the people referred to in the FIC Report is money that could go to much-needed areas, such as civil servants’ salaries; re-opening the Copperbelt University; re-introducing university meal allowances; social cash transfers for the poorest and most vulnerable in society and medicines in our hospitals. The fact that the government wishes these thefts to remain hidden and to go unchecked reflects very badly on the state of governance and public accountability in this country. We echo the words of the FIC board chair, Mr John Kasanga: ‘criminals should not be emboldened’,” read the statement.

“We are, therefore, urging the government to keep its hands off the Financial Intelligence Centre and the Act establishing it! We must stop corruption in the country and if the government will not do it, the people of Zambia will. We, the citizens of this country, are rightfully, and ultimately the judge and jury in as far as our resources are concerned. We are appalled that government clearly wants to shield those who are looting our country’s resources when the majority of citizens are wallowing in poverty. We see nothing wrong with FIC alerting the public that resources that rightfully belong to them are being looted. Only criminals will want such information concealed!”