ALLIANCE for Community Action (ACA) says suggesting that President Edgar Lungu is being put under pressure when called upon to do more to fight corruption is tantamount to encouraging him to abandon his sacred duty of defending the nation.
Last Thursday, Presidential Affairs Minister Freedom Sikazwe had argued that if there was no one convicted as a result of corruption, it was very difficult for President Lungu to do anything about tackling the vice.
However, ACA senior information and advocacy officer Jimmy Maliseni insisted that everything relating to the fight against corruption started and ended with the President.
“To suggest that the President is being ‘put under pressure when people call on him to do more to fight corruption’ is tantamount to encouraging the Head of State to abdicate his sacred duty of defending this nation. Everything rises and falls on leadership. So, when people are constantly referring to the President’s contributions to the fight against this deadly vice, it means two things. First, that there is a weakness in the system, it is not fighting corruption as it should and there is need to do more. Naturally, as the State body charged with the duty to lead the fight against corruption, the ACC will come under increased scrutiny. Secondly, because people are dissatisfied with the work or lack of it being done by the ACC, they will call out the President because as the appointing authority of the ACC director general and chief custodian of public resources, the fight against corruption is ultimately his responsibility,” Maliseni said in an interview.
He said fighting corruption was a leadership issue.
“We should remember that the President has made comments or pronouncements on the fight against corruption in the past. At one time, he committed to firing ministers who were receiving huge deposits in their bank accounts. It is clear that those individuals, in the informed opinion of the President, were earning more money than their known and legal sources could make. What is important in that statement is that the President told us that he has evidence. As Head of State, he receives reports on these issues, so the issue of evidence should not arise. Further, the evidence is everywhere, the President has access to information more than any other citizen. What we see in the FIC and Auditor General’s reports should be enough for the President to make drastic changes in the approach to the fight against corruption. Some of the other evidence is in the public domain. For example, is the President not aware that government pays for goods and services at astronomical prices? What evidence does he need to know that we are paying above market prices from high-tech items like fire tenders, and ambulances to water and drinks? Most of this information is in the public domain,” he said.
“For us at the ACA, we do not agree that the fight against corruption is about the President having evidence or the ACC doing their work. Rather, it is a leadership issue. The ACC, and by extension the country, will perform better in fighting corruption if the Head of State and his leadership support the work of the ACC and call out wrongdoers and those who threaten the Commission. Zambians will join the fight more willingly if the message against corruption is clear, consistent, and backed with action. To change the narrative on corruption, this government must change its rhetoric and actions.”
Maliseni wondered why the ACC was constantly under attack by endless threats for investigating mounting corruption scandals in government.
“Threats on the ACC are very unfortunate. Again, we must ask why people in this administration find it so easy to attack public officials? Who facilitates the brazen disregard of law enforcement officers? These questions need to be answered. The ACC needs to do more to stand up against political bullies. We have seen attacks in the same style on the FIC and Auditor General, but that has not stopped these offices from serving the public good,” said Maliseni.
“Why is the ACC not emulating their colleagues? The ACC will have public support if they do the right thing. History shows us that when public officials serve public interest, they get citizen backing. The entire nation apart from the detractors will rally behind good public officers. We saw that when people pulled together to defend the FIC Board and officers. However, it is fair to say that the ACC has lost the confidence of the public in the manner they have failed to prosecute what seemed, even to the layman, cases that should have at least made it through to trial. Instead, what we have seen is total failure to conduct proper prosecutions, especially of high-profile politically-exposed individuals and entities.”