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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Prosecution of Corruption

An interesting comment from Charles Mulipi on the Auditor General:
"We need to enhance the role of the Auditor General to make them have responsibility for initiating prosecutions to those who are erring...At the moment, you can be chairman of the Accounts Committee (PAC) and you expose so many things but you still rely on the executive to prosecute, if they want to….”
In its raw form this idea would be costly. A cheaper version of the proposal would focus the Auditor General's prosecutable powers on more serious cases, otherwise she would drown with every case! This is the approach adopted in Sierra Leone where their Anti Corruption Commission Act gives power to the Sierra Leone ACC to send cases directly to court. Prior those changes the Sierra Leone ACC was required to send all their cases to the Attorney General for approval first like is the case in Zambia. As a result many cases against top government officials perished on the table of the Attorney General who never prosecuted these matters.

However, it is interesting to note that Sierra Leone has not given similar powers to the Auditor General as Mulipi suggests in the Zambian context. Perhaps because doing so would cut across the responsibilities of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) and the Attorney General. It seems to me that extending such powers outside our current established system, whether its the ACC or the Auditor General is not only problematic structurally, but also intellectually. A key problem is that the reason such extensions would be necessary is because we would have concluded the DPP and Attorney General were inefficient or corrupt. That is the only reason. The Auditor General produces the annual report, all that remains is for these two public offices to act on it. The question we should all be asking is - why don't they act? 

As far as the Auditor General is concerned, the only reform we need there is to simply ensure that when the Auditor General's Report is adopted by Parliament, she should send all the information to the relevant investigative wings. The Laws of Zambia should enshrine this process as automatic and emphasise the liability for prosecution squarely on the investigative wings, working with the DPP and the Attorney General. At the end of each year the investigative wings could be mandated to give an account to Parliament on how they proceeded on each task. Parliament of course would have no big stick to wave, but it could serve a useful role in shouting loud to the public that the relevant investigative wings and DPP are not doing their job.
In theory this could be more effectively targeted at more serious cases and would guarantee some end product to her work. 

In all this we must remember that bringing cases to the court is one thing, ensuring they don't get held up in court and serve the appropriate sentence is another.

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