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Financial Crimes Court vital

YEAR in, year out, the Auditor-General’s Report is awash with financial mismanagement of varying magnitudes ranging from misappropriation, misapplication, overpayments, unaccounted for revenue and un-vouched expenditure. All these and other financial irregularities are also captured by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), a sessional committee of National Assembly established in terms of Standing Orders. PAC examines the Auditor General’s Report, as part of its mandate of examining the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums approved by the National Assembly. Failure to properly account for public funds, including failure to deliver goods and services, cannot be allowed to continue. These corruption and other financial crimes rob the country of resources meant to develop and deliver essential public services to its citizens. Therefore, the decision by the Judiciary to set up a financial and economic crimes court is welcome. Chief Justice Mumba Malila has signed a Statutory Instrument for the creation of an economic and financial crimes court, which will soon be set up. Economic crime, also known as financial crime, refers to illegal acts committed by an individual or a group of individuals to obtain a financial or professional advantage. The principal motive in such crimes is economic gain. This is exactly what has been happening as corruption has continued to rear its ugly head despite efforts by Anti-Corruption Commission and the Auditor-General’s Office in curbing crimes of economic nature. It should be seen as part of measures to fight financial crimes which have continued to impede the country’s sustainable development. Establishing a specialised court will bring about efficiency in the fight against these scourges, which will in turn serve as a deterrent to would-be offenders. Addressing this scourge through traditional courts has proved to be both time-consuming and costly which at times has discouraged law enforcement agencies from pursuing such cases to their logical conclusion. Introducing a cost-effective approach such as the establishment of a specialised court as decided by Government will serve as a morale-booster to law enforcement agencies. During his inaugural official opening of the National Assembly in September last year, President Hakainde Hichilema said Government will introduce mechanisms to fast-track recovery of stolen assets and prosecution of corruption cases. The President said specialised fast-track stolen assets recovery mechanisms and courts for corruption and economic crimes would be introduced in the fight against corruption.
Justice Malila said yesterday an Economic and Financial Crimes Court at the level of the Subordinate Court will soon be operational. Justice Malila said the economic and financial crimes court will help expeditiously recover illicitly obtained money. Such a gesture may not sit well with critics of the Judiciary who may be asking whether the country really needs a court specific to that. There is justification because the Judiciary is overwhelmed. There must be a backlog of cases of this nature which has necessitated the establishment of this court, which will also have specifically trained judges in financial and economic crimes. The economic and financial crimes court, therefore, is significant as it turns policy and pronouncements into deed and action. Basically, a corruption court expedites the litigation and process of law. It is also important for the country because it sends a signal to everyone that government means business. Money recovered through the specialised courts could or should be channelled to other sectors in dire need of financial support. When cases are resolved quickly and culprits brought to book, would-be offenders would think again about how they manage public funds and other resources. Speedy conclusion of cases is also good for those that want to clear allegations against them. So this is a win-win turn of events. Only those that have something to hide could have cause to worry about these fast-track courts.