ANTI corruption researcher and advocate Rueben Lifuka has observed that there is a weakness and haphazardness in the way the UPND government is approaching the fight against corruption so far.
Commenting on Vice-President Mutale Nalumango’s remarks that individuals who served in the previous regime must surrender all the funds they dubiously acquired, Lifuka said Non-Conviction Based asset forfeiture should be applied sparingly and complement, where necessary, criminal proceedings.
“The call by the Vice President for the surrender of monies and properties illicitly obtained by those who served in the previous Patriotic Front government raises a number of issues which should be considered in their full context. It is important that government clearly articulates its anti-corruption strategy insofar as addressing all allegations of corruption made against former PF leaders and other perpetrators is concerned. While recognising that our local laws provide for Non-Conviction Based (NCB) Asset forfeiture, this should be applied sparingly and complement, where necessary criminal proceedings. Non Conviction Based Asset forfeiture is an avenue for confiscation in situations where it is not possible to obtain a criminal conviction – whether the defendant is dead, unknown, missing, or immune from prosecution, or in cases where the statute of limitations prevents prosecution. It benefits from the lower evidentiary threshold required to obtain a confiscation order, when compared to proceedings designed to determine criminal liability,” he said in response to a press query.
Lifuka said the long delays in putting in place concrete measures to tackle corruption, had emboldened the corrupt who now had the audacity to openly challenge government.
“This call by the Vice President, in the absence of a serious and comprehensive anti-corruption strategy is unlikely to yield any fruits. The fight against corruption needs a comprehensive strategy and strong and effective leadership, the UPND government should demonstrate that it has the necessary competencies and determination to address not just some cases but all cases of corruption. There is an apparent weakness and haphazardness in the way that the UPND government so far is approaching the fight against corruption and unfortunately, this does not inspire confidence that corruption in its diverse forms will be adequately addressed. We should not wait to act and close the stables when the horses have bolted. The long delays in putting in place concrete measures to tackle corruption, have all emboldened the corrupt who now have the audacity to openly challenge government. In some instances, the paper trail and evidence have been tampered with and we will continue to have people enjoying their illicit wealth simply because our government has done nothing or very little, all in the name of being methodical,” he said.
Lifuka said it was worrying that the UPND government had continued calling upon plunderers to come forward on their volition.
“It is worrying to continuously hear this call from the Vice President and the UPND Government, basically asking those who stole from this country, to come forward on their volition and this seems to send a signal that government and relevant investigative bodies are unable to fully investigate and secure convictions against perpetrators of corruption. The challenge with this approach is that government probably has no idea what was stolen and is placing the burden of disclosure and to some extent self-incrimination on the same people who should ideally be criminally sanctioned for stealing from the people. The question is what is the incentive for such people to come forward unless of course they know that government through the investigative wings, has cogent evidence of their wrong doings which could secure their conviction in the event that they fail to surrender their ill gotten wealth,” he said.
Lifuka argued that the call for perpetrators of corruption to voluntarily surrender properties and money was not new, and had limited success in the past.
“This call for perpetrators of corruption to voluntarily surrender properties and money is not new and has had limited success in the past. For instance, in 2003, the late President Levy Mwanawasa called on former President Frederick Chiluba to surrender at least 75 percent of what he is alleged to have stolen and he would be given the necessary amnesty. Again, the challenge then and it is now, is that the Mwanawasa administration could only make a claim for 75 percent of what was stolen if it had an idea of what indeed had been stolen. Yes, it is well appreciated that funds recovered from illicit financial flows can provide the financial resources needed to invest in education, healthcare and other social services, but this should not be at the sacrifice of ridding society of the ills of corruption. The excessive reliance on NCB approaches and civil sanctions to the detriment of criminal proceedings may erode the seriousness of the offences in the eyes of the public and of offenders. This lowers the risks associated with corruption and affects the ability of government to effectively control corruption,” he said.
Lifuka urged government to urgently consider calling a National Anti Corruption Stakeholders Forum to help it think through different approaches and strategies to scale up the corruption fight.
“The advice to the government is to get its act together and this includes addressing fundamental issues including the appointment of commissioners for the Anti Corruption Commission, appointment of substantive Director Generals for the ACC and the Financial Intelligence Center, and urgently reviewing and completing a new National Anti-Corruption Policy. Further, government should seriously address allegations of corruption which has been made in this short period of the UPND’s rule. The emphasis should be on fighting all corruption allegations whether these are from the previous regime or the current one. Government should urgently consider calling a National Anti Corruption Stakeholders Forum to help it think through different approaches and strategies to scale up the fight against corruption,” said Lifuka.