By SIMON MUNTEMBA
PLACING the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) under the Office of the President has the potential to compromise its independence, says the Centre for Constitutionalism and Legal Justice.
And President Hakainde Hichilema’s special assistant for press and public relations Anthony Bwalya said that the President would not interfere in the operations of statutory bodies such as the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).
Mr Bwalya said the president would not interfere in the operations of the investigative wings and other governance institutions and would remain committed to ensuring that they continued to execute their statutory obligations autonomously.
‘’the new dawn administration under the leadership of president Hichilema will continue to support these institutions in its drive to bring new efficiencies in the manner they serve the public interest, particularly in the fight against grand corruption at the heart of government,’’ he said.
Centre director Isaac Mwanza however said the fight against corruption would become questionable or compromised when institutions responsible for such a crucial mandate were placed under political offices.
Mr Mwanza who appealed to President Hakainde Hichilema to rescind the decision said there was need to give ACC an autonomous status, by detaching it from the Office of the President.
His remarks follows the announcement by the new dawn Government in Gazette Notice No. 1123 of 2021 that it has formally put the ACC, the newly created Anti Financial and Economics Crimes Commission, and Office of the Public Protector, among other institutions, under the Office of the President.
He said in an interview that this would compromise the independence of the ACC.
“The Centre for Constitutionalism and Legal Justice is appealing to President Hichilema to reconsider his decision to formally put the ACC under his office, an act which has the potential to compromise the independence of the Commission.
“The concern becomes even greater as the new dawn administration has indicated that it will setup fast tracks courts, which courts other people believe will be ‘kangaroo courts’ meant to fast track the fixing of perceived political opponents,” Mr Mwanza said.
He noted that the fight to liberate the ACC from being controlled or being seen to be controlled by the Presidency had been a long fight which involved the then vibrant civil society movement and the Law Association of Zambia.
Mr Mwanza said between 1980 and 2012, the President was seen as having a strong hand in directing the fight against corruption as the law had allowed him to control the ACC and make regulations associated with the crusade.
He explained that the controlling practice of the ACC by politicians continued into the 2010 ACC Act but it was not until 2012 when the then new Patriotic Front administration under President Michael Sata showed political will by removing the President from making regulations and gave it an autonomous status, which was later confirmed by the Constitutional Amendments in 2016.
“Although, President Hichilema may be placing these important institutions under his control with a good intention but the end result can be disastrous. Usually, it is other people around the Presidency who begin to use these institutions to wage a war against perceived political enemies or they begin to use them to shield themselves from being investigated by the very institutions they have under their control,” Mr Mwanza said.