Former justice minister Wynter Kabimba is reminding government officials the real reason why the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) was created. He says unlike other intelligence wings, FIC is accountable to the people of Zambia.
“Unlike the state security agency, unlike the Office of the President, unlike the special branch, the special branch is accountable to the President on matters of state security, the FIC is accountable to the public on matters of money laundering because they are informing the public about the possibility of the squandering of (a) state resources and (b) terrorism that may arise from those activities or those suspicious transactions so there is nothing wrong with the FIC telling members of the public that the suspicious transactions that we have looked at or analyzed in this last year, amount to these billions of kwacha which might have been lost through tax evasion for example. There is nothing wrong with that, that is their mandate so the argument that the FIC should stop publishing those reports to the public undermines its mandate and its accountability to members of the public,” Kabimba says.
He also observes that the existing law enforcement agencies lack the capacity to fight white collar crimes. We agree with the former Justice Minister. In fact this is the song we have been singing all along. We are glad that Mr Kabimba is bringing the FIC debate back into discussion at a point when the Republican Constitution is about to be mutilated to suit the law breakers.
If we don’t pay attention to what those in government are trying to do, the next thing we shall hear is the Minister of Finance announcing that the FIC Act has been amended to protect the Politically Exposed ‘Pompwes’ (PEPs). We must not allow this!
Seeking to clip the powers of the FIC for publishing Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Trends Reports is like whipping your child for telling you that her teacher has been defiling her. It is senseless.
In comparison to other trends reports published by similar institutions in other countries like Ghana, South Africa, Kenya and Canada, the content and detail is alike. So the attacks on the iron lady, Madam Mary Chirwa, the FIC Director General, are unwarranted and we must see them for what they really are – an attempt by criminals to kill the institution so that they can loot in peace.
In 2018, government tried to ‘delete’ the institution from existence by withholding salaries and attempting to starve its workers. But that did not stop the institution from working even harder and earning recognition from the Eastern and Southern Africa Anti Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG) as a model money laundering unit.
In this country, accountability, transparency and integrity have become so rare that citizens feel they have to be grateful when a corruption-accused public official decides to apply for leave to ‘pave way for investigations’. When we see this, it breaks our hearts because it appears we have lost a sense of our worth as citizens. We have forgotten who holds the true power. We have become so used to asking for things which the Great Leader, deprives us of.
That is why we love the FIC, it is the only institution which gives us a proper idea of how some PEPs are abusing our resources and institutions. We know that those who are in the forefront of the onslaught against the FIC are the biggest culprits. They hate the fact that finally, there is an institution that is equal to the task. An institution that can follow their trails no matter where they go in the world.
We understand that it makes a lot of sense to some people when President Edgar Lungu argues that the FIC law must be changed because the Center deals in gossip, but we find the argument senseless ourselves because when you think about it, almost every single investigation starts with a rumour. Government must instead work on building capacity for our law enforcement agencies whose ability to fight white collar crimes is deeply questionable.
Let’s face it, the FIC is not the problem, sticky fingers are the real problem.