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Anti-corruption campaigners say a weak legal system is failing to curb financial misconduct by top government officials

Posted by African Press International on January 17, 2009

Lusaka (Zambia) – Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) received more than 2,000 corruption complaints from the public for 2008, the ACC yearly report states.

“The commission investigated a number of cases last year. Arrests were effected and cases brought before the courts of law where sufficient evidence was established,” ACC acting director Rosewin Wandi told IPS. “Between 60 and 70 percent of reported complaints were against government officials, while about 20 percent were against officials in the private sector.”

But critics are calling for a more effective and autonomous body to lead the fight against corruption. The ACC was established in 1980 as an independent body to promote transparency and minimise corruption, yet Zambia was ranked the 17th most corrupt country in the world on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2007.

Anti-corruption campaigners say a weak legal system is failing to curb financial misconduct by top government officials. Transparency International’s Zambian chapter president, Reuben Lifuka observes that long delays and drawn-out prosecutions of high profile cases prove very expensive.

“The delays have made a number of people question the efficacy of the whole fight against corruption,” Lifuka says. He has advised Zambian president Rupiah Banda not to hesitate to dismiss government officials found to be corrupt or engaged in any unscrupulous activities. TI Zambia has also called for the urgent domestication of the UN convention against corruption by enacting legislation.

“Government, together with other stakeholders involved in the fight against corruption, should conduct an evaluation of the performance of the fight against corruption and a commitment should be made to strengthen what is working well and do away with what is not working well,” Lifuka said.

Lifuka challenged president Banda to run a clean government by establishing audit committees in each ministry and government agencies.

Norway is an important source of donor aid to Zambia and its government is very concerned with the negative impact corruption has on the Zambia’s development. The Norwegian ambassador, Gunnar Boe, says it is important to secure increased autonomy for the Anti-Corruption Commission and Office of the Audition General as it is not yet fully independent as per the lime convention.

“We need to decentralise the anti-corruption commission operations by splitting it into many regional offices.” Boe said “Public investment in ACC and the Office of the Auditor General has a high rate of return through reducing mismanagement of public funds and as much improving public service delivery and reducing poverty.”

President Banda has publicly pledged his administration’s total support to fighting corruption. “Government has put in place laws and systems to strengthen institutions and prevent corruption, abuse of office and other irregularities in public institution. What I expect therefore is total adherence to these laws and systems,” President Banda said in the statement responding Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2007.

A new project of the UK’s Overseas Development Institute may help to achieve these aspirations. Zambia is one of six countries targeted in the first year of a new project, “Strengthening Citizen Demand for Good Governance Through Evidence-Based Approaches.”

The programme will support a range of initiatives to strengthen the responsiveness, accountability and capability of governments. The Anti-Corruption Commission is among several dozen government bodies, non-governmental organisations, faith groups and media organisations participating in a consultative meeting to launch the project in Zambia on Jan. 15.

Among its aims, the ODI programme intends to approach governance as a relationship between the governors and the governed, facilitating accountability and effective citizen participation.

*The Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Britain’s leading independent think-tank on development and humanitarian issues, is driving the implementation of the “Strengthening Citizen Demand for Good Governance Through Evidence Based Approaches” in partnership with the Inter Press Service (IPS) Africa and CIVICUS.

source.Inter Press Service (IPS)- January 16, 2009.

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