TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TI-Z) has urged the Anti-Corruption Commission to reflect on whether they have the capacity to comprehensively investigate old issues like privatisation.

In response to a press query, TI-Z executive director Maurice Nyambe said it was gratifying that the Commission had given a comprehensive update on their work, further urging the Commission to swiftly change the negative public perception about their capacity.

“Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) is pleased that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has given a comprehensive update on their work for the last three years, with a focus on community education; corruption prevention; and investigations and prosecutions. We commend the Commission for their community education programme which comprises various public outreach interventions aimed at equipping the public with information on corruption to enable them to participate in the fight against corruption. We however wish to point out that the ACC is currently suffering from a problem of negative public perception about their capacity to function as an effective anti-corruption body. We therefore urge that the community education programme should not merely be about giving information to the public about how they can be involved in fighting corruption. It should also include raising awareness about the work of the Commission itself, including the operational challenges they are facing and how they address those challenges,” Nyambe said.

“In essence, our call is for the ACC to open themselves more to the public in order for the public to appreciate the efforts that the Commission is making in leading the anti-corruption fight in Zambia. One way to do this would be to hold regular open days for the media or public to directly interact with the Commission and have the opportunity to learn more about the work it does. Another way the Commission can redeem itself in this regard is by demonstrating impartiality and professionalism in pursuing all corruption cases at both the higher and lower levels of society, regardless of political affiliation. The negative public perception has the potential to hinder the ACC’s work, especially where public involvement is sought, and our hope is that the Commission will do everything in their power to change this narrative. Regarding the Commission’s corruption prevention activities, we note that much of the focus has been on supporting Integrity Committees in the public and private sector, and it is gratifying to note that the number of these Committees has grown to 116 over the last three years.”

Nyambe urged the Commission to truthfully reflect on whether they had the capacity to comprehensively investigate old cases like privatisation as it was likely that the ACC did not have required resources.

“We however wish to point out that from our experience, a significant proportion of these committees only exist on paper and are lacking the internal operational support to enable them function as effectively as they should. TI-Z has regular engagements with a good number of these committees and we are therefore privy to some of the challenges they encounter in their operations. Concerning investigations and prosecutions, we note that the ACC has made progress on a number of cases. However, we would like to urge the Commission to watch against becoming active with investigations only when a high ranking officer is involved, particularly only after such an officer has been dismissed. We would also urge the Commission to truthfully reflect on whether they have the capacity to comprehensively investigate even old cases which could have many different facets to them,” Nyambe said.

“An example is the investigation of the president of the United Party for National Development (UPND) concerning the privatization of state-owned assets in the early 1990s. In our view, it is likely that the ACC does not have the resources it would require to undertake a comprehensive investigation that will focus on the entirety of the privatization exercise rather than singling out specific players. We reiterate our stance from last year that if there is a genuine intention to uncover what transpired during the privatization exercise, the investigation should be an all-encompassing one that focuses on all the players that were involved in what was a government-led programme. If the Commission has a newly-found capacity to comprehensively investigate old complex cases, we would like to suggest that they begin by sifting through the basketful of potential cases from Auditor General reports from the last few years.”

Nyambe urged the Commission to enhance collaboration with the Office of the Auditor General in picking up cases for investigation.

“In that regard, we urge the ACC to enhance their collaboration with the Office of the Auditor General and to be more proactive in picking up cases for investigation from the Auditor General’s reports, which have for a long time now highlighted cases of abuse of public resources, with seemingly little action taken on those cases. We note that the Commission did pick up five such cases last year, and we urge them to be more vigilant in doing this going forward. In conclusion, we wish to reiterate our commitment to collaborating with the ACC in the fight against corruption in Zambia. We are aware that the Commission does have challenges including inadequate financial and in some cases political support, but our hope is that this will not discourage them from executing their constitutionally given mandate of leading the fight against corruption in Zambia. We are convinced that Zambia needs a strong and independent ACC for us to make any serious headway in the fight against corruption,” said Nyambe.