ANTI Corruption Commission chief corporate affairs officer Timothy Moono says it is sad that as a country, we tolerate corruption by enjoying and glorifying those who steal from the public.

And Moono has vowed that the commission will not allow looters to go scot free.

And ActionAid Zambia country director Nalucha Ziba says Zambia’s current CPI score indicates that no significant gains were made in the fight against corruption in 2021.

Commenting on Zambia’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index score which stood at 33 during a plenary session, Tuesday, Moono said the ACC was not surprised by the score.

“The Anti Corruption Commission is actually not surprised with the score. I think the writing is on the wall, Zambia has not been performing well with regards to the fight against corruption. Critical is political will, you cannot achieve any significant measures in the fight against corruption without political will. It is a major ingredient in the fight against corruption,” he said.

“[The] Anti Corruption Agency, is an agency of government, it serves government’s interests. It serves the public to recover the ill gotten wealth, to ensure that resources are equitably provided across all sectors of society, and to ensure that anything that is planned for government, funds are directed to achievement of those targets. If you lack political will and Anti Corruption Agency will only be following behind what has been looted. That is not the situation we want, we want to be able to have interventions that will stop any looting, that will stop any misapplication of resources before their abused.”

He said it was sad that the country continued to tolerate corruption.

“We are glad that we have a new impetus in the fight against corruption, there is a lot of political will that has come on board. Also to mention that it is sad that we have as a country continued to tolerate corruption. We enjoy and glorify those that steal, it is very unfortunate and yet we don’t see the effects that it has on health, on education, on infrastructure, because we think it is government resources, we don’t take the fight against corruption as a personal agenda. We need as a people to move a step ahead and not wait for agencies to fight corruption but to take it as an individual fight, as a collective fight, as Zambia’s fight. We need to do that,” Moono said.

And Moono said the Commission would not allow looters to go scot free.

“The Commission has repositioned itself in this fight and with its mandate, we are already geared towards making inroads to fight this scourge. You may have witnessed recently that our focus is not just about taking people to court, because taking people to court, well it is very important because that is what justice is about but also to follow where the money is. When people steal, we just need to find it and recover it. Therefore, among the strategies that we have now is to ensure we use two aspects either the non conviction based forfeiture recovery or the conviction based forfeitures and we will follow the money. That is what we are doing now. We are working towards making sure that corruption prevention is one of our major aspects in the anti corruption fight,” he said.

“We will follow the money and that is one of our major strategies. So we will either take you to court and be convicted and still get whatever else you have looted or we will go into a none conviction based forfeiture and recover whatever it is you have acquired. In doing so, we will be guided on whether; do we have adequate evidence and so on and whether we enter in some plea bargaining. So there are rules and regulations to guide non conviction based forfeitures. We will not allow people to go scot free. They will be taken to court, they will be arrested.”

He said looting of public resources was caused by weak systems which were put in place to fight corruption.

“There are also other strategies which include system reengineering, public education because we know that the looting is because the systems are not strong enough to stop the corruption. So we need to deal with the systems. We will give you regular updates and please when we delay, because we know that public expectations is very high, people want to hear and see these things. But we will give you these updates without jeopardising our investigations. We want to take these matters to court for justice’s sake,” said Moono.

And Ziba said Zambia’s current CPI score indicated that no significant gains were made in the fight against corruption.

“ActionAid Zambia has noted with concern Zambia’s score and ranking in the 2021 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The maintaining of the same score in the CPI as that of 2020 should be a source of concern amongst different stakeholders and the general citizenry. This means that the country did not make any significant gains in the fight against corruption. Zambia has continued to record poor rankings in the CPI over the past couple of years highlighting the government’s laissez faire approach towards the fight against corruption. There is need for the New Dawn administration to take seriously the findings of the 2021 CPI as this gives an overview of the perception of public sector corruption,” she said

She said there was need for the Anti-corruption Act to be reviewed and amended.

“As ActionAid Zambia, we want to agree with the recommendations placed in the CPI, and strongly urge government to take into consideration these recommendations as remedies in the fight against corruption. There is need for government to not only intensify but prioritise the fight against corruption in order to ensure resources being misused for personal gain are channeled to where they are needed such as health and education, this will in turn translate into boosting the confidence of different stakeholders, and ultimately an improvement in the perception of public sector corruption,” Ziba said.

“ActionAid Zambia further recommends the need for the Anti-corruption Act of to be reviewed and amended considering the enhancement of the scoop of the Zambian anti-corruption related pieces of legislation such as the Asset declarations, Whistle-blower protection, plea bargain and negotiations, asset recovery (local and international) and public procurement to mention a few. ”

Ziba said it was unfortunate that the prosecution rate was very low.

“ActionAid Zambia also notes that prosecution is a major tool in the fight against corruption and will boost public and institutional perception as it will ensure that corrupt offenders are held to account through prosecution. We have noted that in Zambia, most people who are involved in corrupt acts are not prosecuted. The prosecution rate is very low especially among politically inclined officials. Therefore, ActionAid Zambia suggests that the approach to prosecution should be governed by the following principles: (a) deal with all cases. No case is too small to investigate; (b) deal with cases regardless of rank and status; and (c) deal with both givers and takers of bribes. They are equally culpable,” said Ziba.

“Furthermore, we are calling for enhanced coordination among oversight institutions like the office of the Auditor General, the Financial Intelligence Centre, Drug Enforcement Commission and the Anti-Corruption Commission along with the judiciary to ensure that all corruption cases are comprehensively investigated, and relevant actions are taken for those found wanting. Lastly, ActionAid calls for an urgent need for more specialised training, covering especially forensic accounting looking at the sophistication and complexity of these crimes in contrast with the broad inadequate capacity and appropriate training of persons charged with investigating and prosecuting these crimes.”