LIKE a brave warrior returning from a gruesome war with injuries in all parts of the body, the Financial Intelligence Centre looks like it is finally walking away from the battlefront and bowing down to the unfavorable hostile environment. Fully aware that the war against corruption is far from over, the FIC appears willing to take a walk and fight another day, in the interest of preserving its own existence.

Why are we saying all this about the FIC which has just recently released a report detailing how over K2.2 billion was lost to corruption in 2020? What have they done to deserve a downgrading of their performance? Well, it is not what they have done, but what they have NOT done which is bothering us and many other people who are aware of the state of affairs at the Centre.

First of all, while the public is still dissecting and digesting the latest report from the FIC, it is important for them to know that this is not a Trends Report. The ‘controversial’ Anti Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Trends Report which we understand should have been released in March this year is still at large. This is the report which contains (identity withheld) case studies of who is suspected to have done what and how. There is no sign that the Trends Report will even come out this year. The document that we quoted is something they are calling the annual report, which has some scanty details about what is trending in the financial sector and some alarming statistics about cases disseminated and the money value attached to them.

Secondly, our people must be informed that this annual report is as old as March 2021 and it was not even formally launched to the public. It’s like it was meant to be made available but without any publicity about it. This is a document which we simply bumped into as we conducted our routine research and investigations. And when we asked some officials of the FIC, they were not even aware that they had such a document. This is very unusual.

Since 2018 when it was reported that K6.1 billion was lost to tax evasion, corruption, fraud, money laundering and other related vices, our Financial Intelligence Centre has not been the same. Since they reported that the country lost close to K5 billion through corruption alone, we have noticed that the Centre has sort of coiled back in as far as publicising their work and informing the public.

Do we think the leadership has been defeated? No, but frustrations are written all over their activities. We can tell that they still have a burning desire to fight the corrupt and criminals, most of whom are in government, but there is no conducive environment for them to do that without losing their souls.

What is worse is that, while the leadership of the FIC was fighting criminals, the leadership of sister organisations and law enforcement Agencies started fighting back, almost as if in defence of the criminals. As if attacks from the government; Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Information and the PF were not enough, we heard statements from leaders of law enforcement agencies saying the FIC was illegally giving out “raw data” and exciting the public for nothing. Even the President himself joined the attacks on the FIC with his famous “mfwiti mfwiti” statement.

In fact, we saw that when the gallant John Kasanga finally left the Centre after resisting a series of efforts to have him chucked out, the President moved with lightning speed to appoint a new board chairperson. With little due diligence, we saw them appoint someone who was already serving on the board of a bank, a reporting entity, which was a clear case of conflicting interests.

What has been the resulting effect of all these attacks on the FIC and the efforts to compromise the institution? In our view, it has resulted in frustrations, some of which are seen visibly and the rest can be construed. Last year we saw how the FIC board withheld the 2019 Trends report, and when it was finally released, stakeholders called it nothing but a face-saving PR statement. At the helm of that, the acting Director General at FIC, Clement Kapalu, resigned from his substantive position of Director for Monitoring and Analysis.

Should the people of Zambia expect this institution to remain the same? We don’t think this is possible under the PF leadership. It appears that the current FIC board was installed with a specific mission of toning down the work of the institution, and this is evident. We now have an FIC which is hanging in the balance, ready to fly but with wings clipped off.