TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TIZ) executive director Goodwell Lungu yesterday charged that President Rupiah Banda and his government will forever be haunted for removing the abuse of office offence clause from the revised Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) Act.
And Luxon Kazabu said it is clear that the fight against corruption has been totally undermined and is close to zero with the removal of the Abuse of Authority of Office clause from the revised ACC Act.
Commenting on the government's removal of the abuse of office offence from the revised ACC Act, Lungu said posterity would judge President Banda's administration harshly. He said the government's action to remove section 37 of the current ACC Act from the Anti-Corruption Bill had dealt a very serious blow to the fight against corruption as it was a direct ploy to legalise abuse of office in Zambia.
"We want to put it on record that the internationally accepted definition of corruption focuses on bribery and abuse of public office and is aptly captured in all the major anti-Corruption Conventions including the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) protocol against corruption which Zambia is a party to, further defines corruption as including the living beyond of one's means," Lungu said.
"The SADC Protocol Against Corruption is very clear as it defines corruption as 'any act referred to in Article 3 and includes bribery or any other behaviour in relation to persons entrusted with responsibilities in the public and private sectors which violates their duties as public officials, private employees, independent agents or other relationships of that kind and aimed at obtaining undue advantage of any kind for themselves or others'."
Lungu said section 37 of the current ACC Act that was removed was in direct contravention of Article 20 of the UNCAC on Illicit enrichment.
Lungu said despite having an article that clearly was against abuse of public office and living beyond one's means, which in most cases results in public officers failing to account for property they cannot account for, Zambia was embarking on steps going backwards instead of strengthening its legal framework to comply with the mandatory provisions of the UNCAC.
"It is therefore inconceivable to imagine how a government that boasts of having ratified the UNCAC can at the same time act contrary in compliance with the UNCAC. We want to advise President Banda's government that this move will live to haunt them forever no matter what justification they use," Lungu said.
"We as Transparency International Zambia, due to our relent efforts in the fight against corruption are extremely appalled and want to put it on record that the architects on this piece of legislation have further undermined the objectives and measures of the current Anti-Corruption policy that clearly calls for the strengthening of anti-corruption laws and not completely weakening such laws which the government is now doing."
Lungu said TIZ had taken time to reflect, study and comment on President Banda's speech during the official opening of Parliament when he indicated that anti-corruption laws would not be dictated by foreign interests.
According to the National Assembly Bill number 41 of 2010 presented to Parliament last Friday for first reading by acting leader of government business Mkhondo Lungu, section 37 which catered for the offence had now been replaced by concealment of offence.
The bill states that a person commits an offence if they intend to defraud or to conceal the commission of an offence under this part or to obstruct an officer in the investigation of any offence.
And Kazabu, a former Kitwe mayor, said it was impossible for the country to create a corrupt free government because it was being led a corrupt regime.
He said it was ridiculous for government to state that they removed the abuse of authority offence from the ACC Act to harmonize the laws.
Kazabu said the best protection government leaders could have after leaving office was to do the right thing and conduct government business in a transparent manner and not removing critical clauses that were meant to enhance accountability.
He said that the removal of abuse of office offence from the ACC Act was one of President Banda's maneuvers to protect himself and his corrupt friends from future prosecutions.
He said President Banda wanted to legalise stealing of public resources especially for people who support him.
He said the move was aimed at protecting the mischief of President Banda's government even after he leaves office.
He said it was sad that the head of state was busy destroying the great efforts that were made by the late president Levy Mwanawasa in the fight against corruption.
Kazabu said it was illogical for government to remove the abuse of office offence from the ACC Act when the Act had contributed significantly to the fight against corruption.
"Rupiah wants to protect himself and his friends after they leave government. That's why he is busy removing pertinent acts in the constitution that will one day find him wanting. It is clear that the fight against corruption has been totally undermined and it is close to zero," Kazabu said.
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