TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TI-Z) says the Anti-Corruption Commission’s decision to stop announcing when individuals are being investigated is a good strategy which will protect the institution from rebuke.

The commission recently said it had stopped announcing when individuals were being interrogated because this was jeopardising investigations as pieces of evidence were sometimes concealed once people were alerted.

Commenting on this in an interview, TIZ chapter president Sampa Kalungu said the decision also protected the integrity of the people being investigated.

“It could have been to appease the government of the day that they are doing their job. Investigations like we see in other developed worlds, they do a lot of investigating even before they come to the public or the person. By the time they are warning or cautioning, you would have done your best and say you are almost concluding the case to proceed to court. I think it is a good strategy to protect themselves from rebuke by the community. It also brings unnecessary attention,” he said.

“You can have a suspect and if you publicise so much, other people just think every suspect is then convicted. This also protects their investigations and also protects the integrity of the people that are being investigated. Corruption has to be fought. It is the way we fight that can bring support. Sometimes we depend on public opinion and support. So let the law enforcement agencies do their work and not be selective. Let them do their job. Let the government give them the support. Sometimes corruption in government is difficult to deal with by the appointing authority like the President.”

Kalungu said law enforcement agencies needed to watch their approach in the fight against corruption to avoid creating a perception that there was persecution.

“The power to investigate and prosecute lies within the government of the day. The law enforcement agencies have the power to do that. The government needs to gauge how they do this. Most of the money that is being investigated is public money. Public money is administered by those that are in power. PF was in power for about 10 years and they were the ones who were administering public resources. In these 10 years there was mismanagement, misappropriation and misuse of authority which is likely to have been committed by those in power and this time the PF. Therefore, most of these investigations are going to target those who were in power and that is PF,” he said.

“However, there is also what is called the approach in the way we do certain things. There were incidences where law enforcement agencies would go into somebody’s space without introducing themselves and showing the search permit. We are happy that investigations are going on against those suspects but we show displeasure at any suspect being treated that way. It is from that angle when you see people start thinking that perhaps this is not normal even though investigations need to get to the bottom of the corruption. So law enforcement agencies can at some point lose it themselves.”

Kalungu observed that corruption was complex and difficult to prosecute because suspects also try to protect themselves.

“We have seen some government officials who are suspected of having involved themselves in corrupt activities and people are calling for them to be suspended or fired. This government should take a leaf from the Malawian President who has set a standard that whoever among the officials involved in corruption must stand aside until investigations are done. Once you do that, the appointing authority will have free hand to not be selective in his fight against corruption. Let him just set a standard and everyone will abide by that,” said Kalungu.

“Every Zambian would want to get to the bottom of every case that is suspected of having been a case of corruption. The government should not relent after making an error and they should work on their approach in the way they protect the rights of citizens. The law enforcement agencies need to think through the things they are doing. It is not just a matter of suspecting one and arresting them. Most of these cases we are seeing, we want them to be successful in the courts of law. However, we appreciate that corruption is complex and difficult to prosecute because the suspects also try to protect themselves.”