ActionAid Zambia country director Nalucha Ziba says financial crimes may increase ahead of the 2021 general election as some disgruntled public officials could resort to engaging in financial crimes to raise funds for campaigns.

Ziba said this in light of the absence of a substantive Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) board chairperson to help manage and steer the affairs of the institution following the expiry of the mandate or the previous board headed by John Kasanga.

Earlier this month, President Edgar Lungu appointed George Siame as FIC board chairperson but revoked the appointment barely 24 hours later, leaving a vacant position.

“With the upcoming elections approaching in 2021, we are concerned that the financial crimes may increase as some disgruntled public officials, as well as politicians, may engage in financial irregularities to raise funds for campaigns. Consequently, we expect a new board chairperson to be appointed will be a courageous person, who is very objective and clear about the work of the FIC,” Ziba said.

“On our part, we have reviewed that the FIC is a very important institution that exposes financial crimes and also disseminate information to law enforcement agencies on suspicious transactions. It is, therefore, important that the FIC is fully supported to function effectively. And in this vain, it is also imperative that an individual with requisite expertise should be appointed to chair the FIC board. And we are hoping that this time around, they will consider picking a competent woman.”

She hoped that the appointment of the next FIC board chairperson would be in line with the provisions of the FIC Act.

“Since the dismissal of the former board chairperson within 24 hours of being appointed, the position has not been filled or we have not heard any announcement that any chairperson has been appointed. However, we hope that the appointment will be in line with the provision of the FIC Act. The FIC Act is very specific and stipulates that a person shall not qualify to be appointed to the board unless the person has not less than 10 years experience in a field connected with financial analysis, law accounting, forensic auditing financial investigation, law enforcement or any other field as the (Finance) Minister may determine,” said Ziba.

“We have observed that the previous acting FIC board chairperson, Mr Kasanga, set a very good record as he was fearless in the fight against corruption and strong in the face of negative opposition to the great work of the FIC. We hope that the next appointment will look into that and we endeavour to remember Mr Kasanga’s remarks where he alluded to say that ‘a crime has been committed, so let us not talk about who has committed a crime, but let us look at the crime as a crime.’ We hope that the next appointment will be able to bring a person with such calibre.”