By DARLINGTON CHILUBA
IT is hard for most people to believe that the reason for anti-corruption is to reform the government system through policy and action.
Arrest and imprisonment are only a necessary end of the process for actual offenders – a strong reminder to obey the law. At its core, anti-corruption is not a matter of legacy creation, but a normal function of government.
Corruption typically occurs when people take advantage of loopholes within the system of government to make away with public resources.
Reform becomes necessary to seal those loopholes and justifiably take to court those who abuse the system for personal gain. It is an unending process needing constant check and even revision.
In fact, one of the easiest ways to confirm if an anti-corruption campaign was genuine, is to ask if any reform came of it?
Indeed, some of the loudest campaigns of this sort have lacked reform because the goal was never to correct, improve or strengthen government systems. Creations of personal legacies and distortion of accused persons’ reputations took precedence.
Therefore, the question of reform becomes important because laws have the potential to be weaponised so that they become punitive instead of corrective.
This is easier said than done because government itself is the victim of corruption because it has lost money and other resources belonging to the people.
Yet we expect the same government to respect the human rights of those who allegedly abused office and the rights of citizens. It is a very difficult middle ground to maintain.
To create balance between these two positions, experts have advanced four ideas of how to construct an anti-corruption office or department:
i) The Universal Model is typified by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong. The presumption of innocence ensures that the ICAC achieves the highest levels of integrity in their work. Its core strengths are investigation, prevention and community education as seen in their many publications.
ii) The Investigative Model is exemplified by the Corrupt Practices Investigations Bureau (CPIB) of Singapore. The CPIB has the long-term objective of retaining investor confidence in the country.
Therefore, the agency can be judged based on comparing investor presence and projecting future business linkages. Reporting lines include those to the executive and legislative committees.
iii) The Parliamentary Model, exemplary of New South Wales, was amended in 1994 to include members of parliament. It is supported by an independent Police Integrity Commission.
This model was established in response to the threat of increasing drug trade in the south pacific ring.
iv) Multi Agency Model of the US has the distinct feature of legislating congressional oversight over the executive.
None of these structures are out rightly perfect but what they have in common are clear overarching national objectives that go beyond extinguishing or obliterating the accused.
Their goals include improving investor confidence and participation from independent wings of government such as parliament on a continual basis.
Political cases arising from enmities or grudges are not forced into the courts of law. Instead, provable and well investigated cases are presented before the courts.
This is where the so-called fight against corruption 2002-09 fails because it was mere politics imposed on the judiciary. Parliament was just used or misled to state a series of unfounded allegations or fallacies that
wasted over 20 years of the courts’ time.
It is not surprising that related cases refuse to reach a conclusive end because they were meant for political mileage, not the seriousness of the courtroom. The two must be distinctly separate.
The types of offices here deliberately avoid one-man shows because they have the weakness of becoming personal, which defeats the purpose.
Political will to fight corruption must not undermine established laws intended to combat venality. Where the law falls short, those in power must prove cause to amend it – hence we come back to reform.
For Zambia, the Public Finance Management Act, 2018 is one of the best tools at our disposal to combat corruption if we educate the public and corporates about this Act.
It details how Government enters into financial transactions and actually aligns State transactions to actual national goals and development. This would be anti-corruption with a purpose to inform, educate and dissuade.
At some point, the law must also instruct those who are at the forefront of combatting corruption to undergo a public audit and show what they have seized, how those properties or assets were acquired by the accused and how they have been disposed.
This is to avoid those tasked to investigate cases from illegally seizing assets and using proxies to buy those same assets. The role of the Auditor General must provide record of seized assets and related records post acquittals or convictions.
The accuser does not become noble by merely accusing other individuals before they defend themselves. Neither does anti-corruption become a preserve for those in office. Prejudice has potential to undermine free trial (The Human Rights Trust of Southern Africa – SAHRIT: 2006).
In this cause, politics must give way to the law, and the law must respect the principle of justice for all.