DRUG Enforcement Commission public relations officer Mathias Kamanga has attributed the spike in money laundering reports to the President’s commitment to allowing law enforcement agencies to operate independently as well as the zero-tolerance policy against corruption.

The Commission recently revealed that it had received a total of 106 money laundering reports during the first quarter of 2022 involving over K126 million and US$ 5,834,622, compared to 29 reports received during the same period in 2021.

In an interview, Kamanga said from the word go, President Hakainde Hichilema had been preaching zero tolerance to issues of graft.

“So it is a combination of [different] things. First and foremost, I think we need to recognise the efforts that the President has been making. From day one, from him being sworn in or maybe even from before, the President has been preaching zero tolerance to corruption. Now if you go back in history, I think the other person was president [Levy] Mwanawasa. The other presidents, yes they preached it, president [Micheal] Sata preached it, you know president Sata’s reign wasn’t as long. But him, right from the word go [he] has been preaching zero tolerance to issues of graft and things like that. So the second thing he has been preaching is the independence of law enforcement agencies, he has been saying law enforcement agencies will be left to operate autonomously,” he said.

“So, that in itself is not just in the word but also in action, because like DEC, [we] saw an increase of the budget by 30 percent. Of course, even the 30 percent is not enough for what we require. It is a huge leap where there is everybody scrambling for a share of the national cake. So that in itself is showing that he is not just saying things, he is also acting on what he is talking about. So that also now comes out into the public where now the public now says, ‘look I think there is a lot of wrongs we have been noticing and we can make these reports to relevant institutions’. So those reports came in and there was that spike, unprecedented, we actually had 106 compared to 29 in the previous year. That is a very good thing and for us, it is a plus because we know that we can follow up on all these [reports] and people will be willing to inform us on any other details about these cases.”

Kamanga said a conducive environment was important in order for investigative wings to thoroughly conduct investigations.

“Independence is very important because the environment in itself, sometimes if nobody is coming to give you instructions to say ‘do this, don’t do that’, if the environment is not conducive, your work will be very difficult. For us, our investigations, especially on the financial side, are dependent on information that is gathered from the different institutions that handle the public resources on behalf of the people of Zambia. So you find that maybe you are going to an institution to go and try and get information on how certain transactions went, if you have people who have been compromised in that institution and there is no political will in the fight against graft and things like that, the problem that you have is that you will face problems in getting that information which is necessary for investigation. So the environment in which people are operating and the perception that people have towards the environment in which you are operating is very cardinal in investigations, especially in financial investigations,” he said.

Kamanga the Commission was keen on investigating high-profile cases and ensuring that proceeds of crime were recovered.

“Right now, we have a tone that has been set right from the top and that tone has been resounded and it has gone even into the Ministries, into the government institutions, into the private sector. People know right now that if they do something wrong they are more likely to be reported and they are more likely to be arrested, and they are more likely to be convicted. So that in itself is very good, like it is creating an appropriate environment in which investigations can thrive. We are keen on investigating every type of case including high profile cases and ensure that we recover as much as possible on behalf of the people of Zambia,” said Kamanga.

“The coming of the Chief Justice to establish the Fast Track Courts, is also another achievement that we need to pat the Chief Justice for. All those disturbances that would have gone on because of the lapse of time, all that is a thing of the past. We have had cases that have been reported just in the same period, where within a short space of time, we as the state have concluded our case and people have been put on their defence and we are waiting for judgement. That is a huge achievement.”