ActionAid Zambia urges comprehensive lifestyles audit of public officials

By Staff Reporter

ActionAid Zambia has called for a comprehensive audit of public projects and lifestyle of public officials.

In a statement, ActionAid Zambia country director Nalucha Nganga Ziba described the revelations of fraud, corruption, money laundering and tax evasion in the 2018 Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) trends report as saddening.

The report observes that public procurement activities were significantly vulnerable to corruption, which has led to the crowding out of legitimate businesses while increasing the cost of public projects.

The report also states that companies not registered with PACRA are awarded contracts just because they are connected to Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs).

Ziba said the revelation verifies the suspicion by some sections of society who have observed some mushrooming public projects whose economic benefits are questionable.

“It is important that Zambia as a country takes bold steps to comprehensively address corruption linked to public contracts,” she said.

“Comprehensive audit of all public projects/contracts – the audit of all these public projects will examine the true owners of the companies contracted, socio-economic benefits, scope of work, contract amounts, experience of the companies. Companies found wanting together with their allies such as PEPs, public service officials who facilitate their dealings should be prosecuted,” she said.

Ziba said it was surprising that some civil servants, civil society leaders, religious leaders and politicians without traceable business background and whose monthly earnings are modest have emerged as millionaires overnight.

“It is therefore important that civil servants and politicians are subjected to a lifestyle audit. This has potential to deter theft of public resources,” she said

Ziba demanded for the amendment of the Financial Intelligence Centre Act to empower the centre to prosecute.

“Currently, the FIC Act provides that the role of FIC is responsible for the receipt, requesting, analysing and disseminating of the disclosure of suspicious transaction reports,” she stated.

“Currently, the Act provides that the FIC should transmit reports of suspected money laundering for investigation by the law enforcement agencies or a foreign designated authority. However, it would be necessary that the Act is amended to enhance powers of FIC to name suspects and undertake prosecution. Establish Fast Track Courts to Deal with Economic Crimes”.

Ziba has further demanded that political parties disclose sources of funding.

“It is also very sad that private companies that were awarded public contracts were funding some named political parties. This just confirms the argument by Civil Society Organisations to have political parties declare their sources of funding. To this effect, we hope MPs when debating the Political Parties Bill will eliminate their personal interests and ensure that this provision is not removed from the bill and that the new law covering political parties will have provision for disclosure of sources of funding,” she said.

Ziba said that Action Aid has further called for a review on outdated tax agreements to deal with tax evasion.

The 2018 FIC trends report pointed out that some companies externalized funds to their parent companies who later send it back in form of loans in order to reduce their tax liability.