Transparency International (TI) Zambia Chapter President Sampa J. Kalungu has said the attempt by the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) to allow Ministry of Finance suspects to refund money they siphoned between 2019 and 2022 undermines public trust in the UPND Government’s commitment to fighting corruption.
Mr. Kalungu’s reaction comes from a recent news story in the Mast Newspaper about considerations by the ACC to allow Ministry of Finance suspects to refund money they siphoned between 2019 and 2022.
Mr. Kalungu said the ACC’s attempt to allow suspects skip the due process of justice but is a huge blow to the act of whistleblowing in the fight against corruption.
He said TIZ is deeply concerned about revelations in the media relating to the Ministry of Finance saga.
The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) earlier in February instituted investigations regarding suspected abuse of public funds at the Ministry of Finance and National Planning.
The Times of Zambia and The Mast had previously run news stories regarding a cartel at the Ministry of Finance that has been involved in siphoning of public funds.
“TI-Z Concerned with MOF Suspects- ACC Refund Negotiations. TI-Z is deeply concerned about revelations stemming from a story in today’s Mast Newspaper about considerations by the ACC to allow Ministry of Finance suspects torefund money they siphoned between 2019 and 2022.While citizens and wrong doers are within legal right to approach the ACC to negotiate and enter a settlement to voluntarily pay or refund the state of resources acquired through corruption or illegal activity according to Section 80 of the Anti-Corruption ActNo.3 of 2012, this tool of resolving cases should not be the sole mechanism for fighting corruption,” Mr. Kalungu said.
He said TIZ was worried that the Anti-Corruption Act No.3 of 2012 is increasingly becoming the de-facto mechanism of handling corruption cases, making it easy for any individual with financial capacity to pay their way out of trouble.
“As a country, we have seen this law continuously exempt individuals implicated and involved in cases of corruption and allowed them to go scot-free. We are concerned that this law is increasingly becoming the de-facto mechanism of handling corruption cases, making it easy for any individual with financial capacity to pay their way out of trouble. Indirectly, corruption wins. While it is understood that settlements can expedite the
resolution of cases, they do not provide a strong deterrent effect on potential wrongdoers. Without the fear of public trials and potentially severe penalties, individuals are less deterred from engaging in corrupt practices. This not only undermines public trust in the UPND’s commitment to fighting corruption, but it is a huge blow to the act of whistleblowing,” Mr. Kalungu said.
He continued:”Whistleblowers and Investigative Journalists risk their lives every day to expose corruption for the greater good. Their relentless pursuit of truth and justice serves as a vital counterbalance to unchecked power and serves the interests of society as a whole. Through bravery, they shine a light on hidden wrongdoing, they challenge corrupt systems, hold the powerful accountable, and help to safeguard democracy and the rule of law- even when others choose to remain silent. Their invaluable contributions should be recognized, protected, and supported to ensure a just and transparent society that upholds integrity and accountability. If corruption cases continue to be dealt with through negotiations with offenders on what is suitable for them, it undermines the work of whistleblowers and investigative journalists and is an insult to their efforts.”
Mr. Kalungu has since asked the government and Law Enforcement Agencies to maintain a balance between the use of settlements and the pursuit of court proceedings.
“TI-Z therefore urges the government and Law Enforcement Agencies to maintain a balance between the use of settlements and the pursuit of court proceedings to maintain strong deterrence against corruption. It is crucial to ensure that penalties and punishments for corrupt practices are commensurate with the gravity of the offense to discourage potential wrongdoers. We also call for the implementation of comprehensive whistleblower protection laws that include provisions for anonymity, safeguards against retaliation, and support mechanisms for whistleblowers. Through this, whistleblowers would be guaranteed the utmost safety and would be encouraged to report corruption,” Mr. Kalungu said.