FINANCIAL Intelligence Centre (FIC) Director General Mary Chirwa says the 2019 trends report might be released in August.

In an interview, Chirwa said the internal report was ready but was awaiting approval from the board.

“I would not call it delay. I know that in the past three years we have endeavoured to release it by the 30th of May of each year but as you are aware, we have had this COVID challenge this year. I think from the beginning of March to two weeks ago, our officers were working off-site. They were rotating and the trends report, as you have seen from the quality we produce, requires a lot of collection of information, analysis and most of all, team work. So the fact that I didn’t have all the officers in one place at one goal, we were still understanding the effect of this COVID and we were all scared of having so many officers in one room to discuss. We couldn’t finish it on time. But I am glad to tell you that we are done with the report internally and because we want to release a quality report, we will not rush because of time,” Chirwa said.

“We will ensure that we have correct, verifiable information and recommendations that are workable. If you recall, our report does not only look at cases that have happened but we look at what trends did we see in each sector and what recommendations can we give our policy makers.”

Chirwa said the internal report was complete and undergoing approvals.

“We are done with the report internally, it is just undergoing approvals. As you know, we have a board which also has to approve the report before it goes to the public. We will be able to get to the public I am sure in the course of August. I know that we have our ordinary board meeting at the end of July on the 30th so at that meeting, hopefully, our report can be approved and then we will be able to release it to the public. Because of our internal processes, we need to ensure that it is approved at all stages. After that approval, we can communicate a date when we can release and the mode of release of our report. There is no delay we just want to do a good job and obviously what has held it back a little is the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

And Chirwa said the mode of release of the report this year would be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The mode of the release for this year might be different. As you know, we wouldn’t want to bring so many stakeholders in one meeting like we usually do. As we go on, I am sure that we will be able to advise our stakeholders. But most importantly, what we are looking forward to is to use this document to enhance collaboration with our stakeholders so that it’s a tool that we can sit one on one with the different sectors where we have already noticed gaps,” she said.

She said it was not true that there was political interference causing the delay of the trends report.

“I should mention that we have operational independence. We have never had interference in our work and all our stakeholders understand the environment in which we work and I think we have set foot in terms of what the institution stands for. We need to ensure that we have strong and effective MLCFT measures to promote financial integrity and we have vowed to do that because that is our mandate. I want to confirm to you that there hasn’t been any interference, it is just the coordination issue because of COVID-19. And for our own reasons, we don’t want to do a hasty job, we want to make sure that the quality of the report that comes out is not affected by the environment around us,” said Chirwa.