Editor's Comment

ACC’s renewed zeal commendable

THE zeal with which the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is pursuing cases now has revealed the lack of political will by the previous government to make suspects of economic plunder answerable. News that ACC received 87 corruption related cases after the August 12 general election highlights the new dawn administration’s political will to give the commission freedom to prosecute public figures. However, the renewed energy by ACC to investigate cases must lead to convictions. That is the best way in which the public will benefit from these efforts. There were reports of alleged corruption involving government officials in the previous administration but apparently ACC was not given teeth to bite. In the end the silence from the PF government bought into the narrative that the leaders then were corrupt. We commend the ACC for finding their voice in the midst of challenges in remaining true to its mandate. This is indeed keeping faith with President Hakainde Hichilema’s resolve to fight corruption regardless of who is involved. The national fight against corruption starts with the commission’s boldness to bring all suspects to book without fear or favour. The number of people being investigated for corruption after elections is alarming for a nation whose corruption perception index is already at 33 points according to 2020 statistics by Transparency International, which ranked the country at number 117 in the world. This picture has a negative effect on investor confidence and ACC will do well to live up to its newly found confidence to curb corruption in public service. Revelations of alleged illegal awarding of contracts in the Ministry of Local Government for roadworks in Central Province worth K10 million to two private companies which never executed the works, call for serious commitment to investigations. The commission should make sure that investigations are concluded and culprits brought to book. The country cannot afford to continue losing huge sums of money to contractors who do shoddy works and hope that the matter will die a natural death. It is also concerning that senior government officials at the Ministry of Health are being investigated for allegedly awarding contracts for the purchase of COVID-19 protective equipment to businessmen without following procedure. The ACC should take advantage of the new government’s political will to thoroughly investigate cases bordering on plunder of national resources. It is also of absolute importance that there is full closure of cases. It is not good enough to merely report that investigations are being done. These must be followed by successful prosecution. The rate of convictions is what ACC or indeed other agencies will be measured by.
As it were, the country is now excited that ACC is now beginning to bite and expectations are high that this will lead to convictions. Don’t put a damper on these high expectations. All this is important partly because how the country deals with corruption is a key ingredient in earning internal and external support for the country. For instance, Zambia needs to improve its record on the international stage regarding corruption, especially that it is in the process of negotiating a bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The fight to reduce the debt burden in the country is dependent on how much law enforcement agencies help in tightening loopholes for corrupt practices. However, the fight against corruption is not for ACC alone but the public must come forward to provide information where they suspect acts of dishonesty in public places or indeed private entities. The President can only do so much in terms of policy direction but much of the work lies in law enforcement agencies and the public at large. President Hichilema’s zero-tolerance to corruption should act as oil to keep the flame of corruption fight alive until the vice is combated. We also urge public service workers to desist from acts of corruption which may hamper government’s efforts of economic recovery. To this end, we encourage ACC to maintain the zeal and improve its negative perception on corruption fight as evidenced during the previous government.

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