New civil society parallel report on Zambia: Lack of legislative infrastructure is an obstacle to anti-corruption efforts

30 November 2023

A new report authored by Transparency International Zambia finds that whilst Zambia has made progress in improving anti-corruption legislation and implementation since the regime change, the lack of legislation in place related to anti-corruption measures presents a serious challenge to the prevention of corruption and asset recovery (Chapter II and V). The report is intended as a contribution to the UNCAC Implementation Review Process in its second cycle, produced with technical and financial support from the UNCAC Coalition.

In terms of Chapter II provisions of the UNCAC, Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Policy has not been updated due to the regime change. However, following the regime change in 2021, efforts have been initiated by the government, and an updated Anti-Corruption Policy is pending approval by Cabinet at the time of writing the report. Despite draft legislation having been in the works since 2002, Zambia to date has no access to information law. Existing legislation in the prevention of corruption also suffers downfalls, such as unfavorable provisions in the whistleblower protection law, or poor enactment of legislation by the government. On a positive note, Zambia established a specialized court to determine matters relating to economic and financial crimes, and corruption in 2022, and allows for public participation in budget planning processes.

Regarding Chapter V provisions of the UNCAC, Zambia has made more positive progress, having relatively effective legislation in place for anti-money laundering and the return and disposal of confiscated property, utilizing bilateral agreements and INTERPOL in asset recovery.

The official UNCAC review process in Zambia began in 2019, but has experienced delays since due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The self-assessment checklist was submitted to the UNODC but has not been published online. A country visit by peer-reviewing countries Algeria and the Central African Republic is tentatively planned for the first half of 2024, with civil society involvement foreseen.

For all the detailed findings, read the full civil society parallel report in English.

Main findings

Preventive Anti-Corruption Policies and Practices

Zambia has no updated Anti-Corruption Policy. The most recent National Anti-Corruption Policy (NACP) in Zambia was implemented from 2009 to 2015. A 2015 evaluation of the Policy established that despite having an effective coordination mechanism comprised of the National Steering Committee, Technical Committees, and Ministries Departments and Agencies, the lack of a financing mechanism and Monitoring and Evaluation Framework limited the effective implementation of the Policy.

During the period 2016 to 2021, the Zambian government initiated the process for the development of a new Anti-Corruption Policy. However, after the change of regime in 2021, the United Party for National Development (UPND)-led administration recalled the policy for fresh consultations and alignment to their new vision. At this point, the Ministry of Justice took the lead in the development of the new policy. Following a multi-stakeholder consultative process, the Ministry of Justice finalized the policy pending approval by Cabinet.

Preventative Anti-Corruption Body or Bodies

The Anti-Corruption Act No. 3 of 2012 foresees the mandate of the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) as follows: investigate and prosecute cases of suspected corruption, conduct public sensitization on the dangers of corruption and foster public support in the fight against corruption, and put in place mechanisms for preventing the corruption scourge in Zambia. The ACC has, however, been limited in executing its mandate due to some legal and institutional challenges. These include the requirement to seek consent from the Director of Public Prosecutions, the inability to charge constitutional office holders and state officers, such as the President, Vice-President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Member of Parliament and Ministers, for offenses under the Act, limited geographical presence and limited financial autonomy.

Political Financing

While the Constitution of Zambia of 2016 provides for the establishment of the political parties fund, auditing of political parties accessing the fund, declaration of sources of funding and spending limits during an election, there is no law in place to actualize this constitutional provision. The Political Parties Bill of 2017 is the most recent attempt at regulating political financing in Zambia. However, the government has not enacted this Bill due to a general lack of consensus among stakeholders. For instance, stakeholders do not agree on the selection criteria for funding through the Political Parties Fund, as many political parties have no representation in parliament, and the government is weary of the financial burden of funding political parties. Furthermore, there are mixed feelings among stakeholders concerning the purpose of the bill, as some suspect that it may stifle the free operation of political opposition parties.

Reporting Mechanisms and Whistleblower Protection

Zambia has a substantive law, the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblower) Act 2010, in place. However, the law contains some unfavorable provisions, such as the possible prosecution of whistleblowers for reports deemed malicious or frivolous. Furthermore, after a decade of poor implementation, it is now apparent that the Act is losing touch with the reality on the ground. For example, it is unclear what role, if any, the Integrity Committees (ICs) should play in the public interest disclosure system and the protection of whistleblowers since the proliferation of ICs came after the enactment of this law. In the absence of sufficient protection, highly placed whistleblowers, such as public officials in government, have turned to Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the media for their reports.

Public Procurement

Zambia has a comprehensive legal framework for public procurement in place. The Public Procurement Act of 2020 aimed to enhance provisions for transparency of procurement for public projects funded through private lenders and reference market price indices developed for benchmarking procurement for standard goods and services. Despite this legal and institutional framework, there are a number of implementation challenges. These include ineffective checks on rent seeking by Politically Influential Persons, limited vetting of suppliers, resulting in awards of contracts to entities with no capacity to deliver; and limited beneficial ownership transparency. There are also cases of collusion between public officials and vendors in defrauding the government through the submission of false claims.

Management of Public Finances

In practice, the National Assembly of Zambia does not exercise its constitutional power to adjust the allocation of the budget to specific functions and departments but instead focuses on debating the budget and voting to pass the annual Budget Appropriation Bill, which gives powers to the executive to implement the national budget. The Constitution of Zambia also foresees public participation in the budget planning process, and since it happens in practice, this is recognized in the report as a good practice.

The Office of Auditor General‘s annual audit reports on government accounts and the use of public funds, and the recommendations therein, are often met with low responsiveness by the executive, resulting in a lack of investigations and prosecution of related offenses.

Access to Information and the Participation of Society

Zambia has no access to information law. A draft Access to Information (ATI) bill has been under development for the past 20 years. The government first introduced the ATI bill in 2002, for ist first reading in parliament, but later withdrew it for further consultations. In 2012, the Patriotic Front-led government established a Taskforce on ATI and produced a draft ATI Bill. Disappointingly, for over a decade, the government failed to pass this bill. In 2022, the United Party for National Development (UPND) government informed the public that the draft ATI Bill would undergo another round of nationwide consultation. Stakeholders bemoaned this decision, as they believed that it would cause further delays to enacting this critical law that has been decades in the making. In the absence of this law, access to information has been at the benevolence of government departments and ministries.

Anti-Money Laundering

In 2023, Zambia launched the National Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Terrorism and Proliferation Financing Policy. The Policy outlines the government’s policy direction for the effective combating of money laundering, terrorism financing and proliferation financing. The country also has a comprehensive legal framework and institutional framework, and established the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) in 2010 to receive and analyze Suspicious Transaction Reports (STRs) and Currency Transaction Reports. Through its annual trends and typology reports, the FIC has been consistent in carrying out its mandate and has also assisted in a number of joint investigations with other competent authorities with some of these cases leading to arrests and forfeiture of assets.

Direct Recovery, return and disposal of property

Zambia has a legal framework for the return and disposal of confiscated property. The Office of the Attorney General facilitates this cooperation using Mutual Legal Assistance requests. In practice, requests made through Mutual Legal Assistance tend to take a long time. Therefore, Zambia has also been using Bilateral Agreements and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to obtain information and recover assets. The Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for Southern Africa (ARINSA) has also been very helpful in the recovery of assets, though it is not a legal channel. With regards to information exchange, the Financial Intelligence Centre Networks have been critical since many countries have established Financial Intelligence Units which exchange information through the Egmont Group.

Recommendations for Priority Actions 

  1. Ensure the approval of the new National Anti-Corruption Policy and adequate dissemination to all parts of the country following its publication.
  2. Designate the Anti-Corruption Commission as a grant-aided institution in order to enhance financial management autonomy from the central treasury.
  3. Amend the Anti-Corruption Act No. 3 of 2012 to make State officers, Constitutional office holders, Judges and Judicial officers liable under the Act and to strengthen the autonomy of the Commission in prosecuting cases of corruption.
  4. Enact subsidiary legislation on political financing in order to actualize constitutional provisions and effectively regulate the use of money in politics.
  5. Amend the Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act No. 4 of 2012 in order to remove unfavorable provisions and provide sufficient protection for whistleblowers and rewards for whistleblowers in the event of recovery of assets.
  6. Ensure the full rollout of the Electronic Government Procurement (e-GP) System as it has demonstrated potential in promoting transparency in the procurement process.
  7. Ensure the full rollout of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) through onboarding all government department and ministries.
  8. Ensure the operationalization of the Public Debt Management Office in order to support the monitoring and evaluation of Government investments and the management of Government’s debt stock.
  9. Create a system that will interface procurement information with beneficial ownership information for purposes of declaration of interest and combating public procurement corruption.
  10. Ensure the enactment of an access to information law in order to ensure access to information in Zambia.
  11. Conduct nation-wide sensitization on the dangers of illicit financing of political parties, state capture and grand corruption in order to generate support for political party and campaign finance regulation.
  12. Sensitize the public on right to information and protect journalists and other non-state actors from intimidation.
  13. Develop a mechanism for effective follow-up of cases disseminated to law enforcement agencies by the Financial Intelligence Centre.
  14. Ensure the operationalization of the Forfeited Assets Fund as a consolidated fund to enhance transparency and accountability in the management of forfeited assets.
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