Mumbi Phiri, the PF deputy secretary general, says there is need to enact a law that will support lifestyle audits for public office bearers; a view which is shared by former Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba. Mumbi, who is a nominated lawmaker, has further volunteered herself as a mover of a private member’s motion to take the Bill to Parliament for enactment. She says this is the only way that people will stop maligning government officials with baseless theft accusations.
We appreciate Mumbi Phiri’s offer, but unfortunately, there is no need for a new law to be established for this. We have enough provisions in the statutes, which can deal with all those who possess properties and assets believed to be proceeds of crime. What is needed now is for Mumbi Phiri, as deputy chief executive of the party in power and the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr Edgar Lungu, to tell the Anti-Corruption Commission to fear no one and start undertaking lifestyle audits on suspects.
Once this is set in motion, it will now be the role of the Anti-Corruption Commission to approach those in government who have suddenly become rich, as well as those who previously held public office, to ask how they got so rich, so suddenly? The laws are there, what is missing is political will and implementation. We should not waste more time debating another Bill in Parliament that will just be shelved, like all the other laws which are not being enforced.
And let’s not complicate things by suggesting that a lifestyle audit cannot be done without an appropriate law to support it. This is just a newer, fancier phraseology of something that already exists. There is nothing new that this law can bring. A lifestyle audit simply goes to answer the question: “How are you affording the lifestyle that you lead, considering the income that you have. How are you managing to have nine luxury cars at your house or to build 49 flats? How come all your children are enrolled at international schools, but your known income is less than half of one child’s tuition fee?” And there are adequate laws to use in order to get the answers.
We have heard those, like Mr Bowman Lusambo, who claim that while they were wearing Die Hard overalls and being used as attack dogs to beat up senior MMD members at the secretariat a few years ago, they were already very successful businessmen; as such, no one should question the sources of their donations. Indeed, no one can dispute that, but we are challenging you to tell us the names of those business companies so that we can cross-check and see whether the companies are linked to any government contract; we will also go and check the Zambia Revenue Authority records to see if, truly, you earned that money legitimately.
The proponent of the lifestyle audit, Musa Mwenye State Counsel, is asking three simple questions: One, what did you have before being appointed into public office? Two, what do you have now that you are in government or after you have left? Three, how much tax have you paid on the income that you claim to have generated though a legitimate business? This is the immediate past Attorney General and we are inclined to believe that he knows what he is talking about and there is something that he has seen, which is making him unhappy with the way people are getting rich!
The rich in government are saying they have successful legitimate businesses, but they have never paid VAT, they have never paid Pay As You Earn, they never filed any tax returns for those businesses. So, which businesses are they running? That is the question that Mr Lusambo and his fellow rich government officials must answer because if you never paid any of the above taxes, then you must be arrested for evading tax, and tax evasion is a criminal offence.
So, thank you very much, madam Mumbi Phiri, for bringing this very important suggestion. But we already have the Anti-Corruption Commission Act, we already have the Penal Code, we have the Whistle-Blowers Act in place. All these laws are in effect. What we are asking from the PF is that you, the leaders, should show political will and lead by example. Make yourselves available for a lifestyle audit, and let the investigative wings move in on everyone else who is seen with suspicious wealth.
We are not suggesting something that has never happened before. In early 2000, the Anti-Corruption Commission hired private lawyers to constitute a taskforce that operationalised the corruption tribunal. The MMD under a sitting government went after serving ministers. So, this has happened before. If Mumbi Phiri and the PF believe that the lifestyle audit is one way that the current government leaders can be cleared of suspicious dealings, let them put this lifestyle audit taskforce into motion. Allow the Anti-Corruption Commission to probe all those named in the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Trends report, Auditor General’s Report and all other reports from oversight institutions.
We also do not agree with the argument that only those who have access to public funds should be investigated. Thieves are not that foolish that they can steal from government and go to build flats in their names, no! They will use friends, relatives and anybody else, but themselves to process those proceeds of crime.
Fighting financial crimes is very complicated and can be hard to prove. That is why South Africa uses its revenue authority to go after organized crime because they know that it’s easy to get away with all various forms of illicit finances, but when the taxman means business, you can’t run. Manje, ise kuno, our customs officers are in the forefront abating smuggling and tax evasion! The thieves are law enforcers, who is going to be caught?