Government agencies advocating for a change in the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Act shows they have something to hide from the public, says Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) general secretary Fr Emmanuel Chikoya.

In an interview, Fr Chikoya wondered why those in government were afraid and disturbed by the recent revelations contained in the 2018 FIC Trends Report instead of addressing and prosecuting individuals involved in perpetrating financial crimes committed last year.

“We are very alarmed that instead of being applauded and encouraged in their (FIC’s) work, they are being hammered left, right and centre, which should not be the case. And even the acting board chair (John Kasanga) ably represented the grounds why they do what they do and how they work. All those are clear indications that they mean well for Zambia. And only those that love to do illegal things would want to condemn them! The article, which was quoted by the acting board chair, clearly states that they are supposed to inform all stakeholders,” Fr Chikoya said.

And he observed that calls to change transparency laws were aimed at hiding theft of public resources.

“What worries us and surprises us, as the Church is that, like if a child is scared of the darkness one would understand, but what I don’t understand is why when it comes in the context of such reports (FIC), adults are scared of the light? We are scared of the light and more comfortable at night because we can do whatever we want to do and say whatever we want to say. But the moment dawn comes, you see people sobering up. Why is everything tailored in such a way that it suits those that are in government? There is plunder of resources [and] that has to stop! The economy is on its knees, things have to change. We cannot begin to make laws. And what I am seeing is that when people are advocating for a change of laws, just know there is a cat in it. They want to fix something not for the good of the public, but for their own good. The law as it stands is good because the public would hold the duty bearers accountable so that when they do honourable things [or] whatever honours are given, they will always be truly reflective of what is a reality,” Fr Chikoya said.

He added that any proposed changes in the FIC Act would be detrimental for Zambians.

“So, we need to be apprehensive of any so-called calls for laws to be amended because they are not meant for the good of the public but they are meant for protecting people who have something to hide. And a person who has got nothing to hide will never be afraid of the light and whatever lifestyle audit or whatever it is, they will always be happy to say ‘yes, here is something that I will verify or confirm what I am.’ But the truth will always come out,” said Fr Chikoya.

“The FIC is put by government and they give the trends, whether favourable or unfavourable. So, the law must not be seen to be applied in a manner that is selective. The trends that are highlighted there are critical, the resources that are lost (K6.1 billion) could be should have been channelled to other vital areas of the economy. The economy is bleeding and it is a source of serious concern when we hear that (Trends) Report being trashed and people attacking the FIC viciously! We stand in solidarity with them. A job well done and let the duty bearers ensure that the right things are done for we know that more of the detailed reports are given to them than what is shared to the public.”