"SECTION 6 1(e) of the Anti-Corruption Act Number 3 of 2012 requires the Commission to co-ordinate with other institutions involved in the prevention and combating of corrupt practices so as to implement an integrated approach to the eradication of corruption."
Those are the words of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Director-General Rosewin Wandi during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between her institution and the Office of the Auditor-General (OAG) led by Anna Chifungula.
Before June 14, 2012, law enforcement agencies such as ACC were not privy to the OAG's findings of financial mismanagement or irregularities in public offices.
Therefore, ACC would be left in the dark about the audit findings until the OAG produces its report.
In other words, investigations into corruption cases emanating from audit reports were mainly commenced after the reports were availed to the Commission.
It is worth noting also that after the culprits are known through the report and subsequently appear before the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) to exculpate themselves, the prosecution process takes a long time and at times does not even occur at all.
With effect from June 14, 2012, financial irregularities findings will not be kept under wraps by the OAG only to be made known to the public through its report.
This follows an MoU signed between the two institutions on June 14, this year.
The MoU came into effect from the date of execution by both parties and would remain in force until it is terminated by either party giving to the other three months notice by assigning reasons therefore.
The Commission is mandated by the Republican Constitution to spearhead the fight against corruption in Zambia through prevention of the vice, community education, investigation and prosecution of offenders.
The OAG, on the other hand, has constitutional powers to conduct audits in all institutions where the Government has interest.
According to the MoU, the two parties are aware that corruption is a predicate offence to other criminal activities such as fraud and money laundering, among other vices, and the ACC and OAG are committed to dealing with corruption through audits and investigations.
It further states that the two institutions are committed to greater coordination and collaboration among State organs in the prevention and combating of corruption to enhance good governance through implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Policy.
The parties have agreed to collaborate and support each other in pursuing investigations relating to their mandate both through their headquarters and in their regional offices around Zambia.
The parties have recognised the need for expedience and collaboration in order to facilitate investigations.
"Where appropriate, information and findings from the audits being undertaken by the Office of the Auditor-General would be shared with the Commission; where necessary, the Commission may in the course of investigations procure from the Office, officers' expertise, information and documents relevant to the conduct of an investigation as may, from time to time, be agreed by the Commission and the Office, for analysis aimed at facilitating an investigation," the MoU reads in part.
In terms of joint operations, it adds, each party would bear its own costs.
The purpose of the MoU is to provide a framework through which information and findings would be shared between the two parties so as to speedily exchange information, and avoid unnecessary delays and bottlenecks in an investigation.
It also aims at calling on each other's expertise and provide a channel for information sharing between the two institutions to facilitate investigations.
On issues of obligations and confidentiality, the MoU states that each party would do everything possible for the time being in their power to ensure that relevant and appropriate information is passed between them freely and without hindrance to avoid unnecessary delays in the course of an investigation or audit.
All information shared, obtained and exchanged through the MoU is deemed confidential.
Each party would at all times maintain the confidentiality and is expected not to disclose any information or subject matter or implementation to any other person or authority.
However, the aforementioned empowers either party to go against only if it is required by the law to do so. It was previously agreed by both parties in the terms and form and in the confidence of their professional advisers.
Speaking shortly before signing the MoU, Ms Wandi said the development was a timely one and that it had come at a time when efforts to combat corruption were being intensified, adding that it also complemented the strong political will the Patriotic Front (PF) Government had exhibited to stamp out the vice in the country by declaring "war"and taking a zero-tolerance stance on graft.
"The event we are witnessing today is a great achievement in our efforts as a country to eradicate corruption which has become a major impediment to economic and social development.
I am, therefore, delighted that the signing of this MoU is happening at a time when the people of Zambia need it the most.
"The Anti-Corruption Commission has taken advantage of the prevailing political will to strengthen and step up its efforts in the fight against corruption in Zambia," she said.
Ms Wandi said the political will was being exemplified through, among other milestones, increased funding to the Commission and oversight institutions as well as the enactment of the Anti-Corruption Act Number 3 of 2012, Section 6 1(e) which promotes co-ordination.
President Michael Sata recently assented to the Bill.
The Commission, she added, strongly believed that the OAG was an invaluable partner in the fight against corruption because of its pivotal role in providing information from audits, whose revelations called for positive response from law enforcement agencies.
"The signing of this MoU will allow the Anti-Corruption Commission to have access to information relating to corruption arising from audits undertaken by the Office of the Auditor-General before the Auditor-General's Report is released," she said.
Ms Wandi observed that the country had been experiencing severe looting of the hard-earned public resources by a "few selfish" individuals at the expense of national development, a thing she said should not be allowed to continue.
Ms Chifungula said the MoU-signing signified the opening of a new chapter in Zambia's fight against the corruption scourge and echoed Ms Wandi's remarks on Government's stance against the vice.
"As you may be aware, corruption if left unchecked can erode wealth, increase poverty and cripple Government structures and systems.
"It can also lead to failure to deliver services and in its extreme, cause strife among the citizenry who may feel dissatisfied with the service delivery.
"Corruption in most cases causes the cost of doing business to be extremely expensive," she said.
Ms Chifungula explained that the MoU sought to improve collaboration between the two institutions through timely information sharing and expertise which would in turn positively contribute to Government's efforts of stamping out corruption.
"All cases of suspected fraud and corruption, once discovered in the course of audit, will be communicated in real time to ensure their timely prosecution," she said.
She, however, said there was need for the institutions to guard against any possible complacency in collaborations in the fight against corruption and mismanagement of public resources, but that they should instead endeavour to ensure that the MoU signing contributes to the evolution of a much stronger working relationship between them to the detriment of those that engage in such vices.
Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) Commissioner Alita Mbahwe, in congratulating the two institutions, said the MoU was an important initiative as it would help DEC in combating money laundering cases.
Ms Mbahwe hoped the MoU was the beginning of more such agreements with other law enforcement agencies.
PAC chairperson Vincent Mwale said the committee and Parliament as a whole were delighted at the development spearheaded by the "powerful women" as such initiatives to promote timely and quick action against those that flout financial regulations had been long overdue.
Mr Mwale said delays or no action being taken against culprits discouraged the efforts of the OAG and PAC after making recommendations and hoped the MoU would help in safeguarding the much-needed resources to develop the country.
"We need these resources to develop our country," he said.
Zambia Police Service commissioner in charge of administration, Antoneill Mutentwa said the service would play its role to lighten the job of the two institutions as they did for the police by pledging to strengthen the Stella Libongani-led service's commitment to the fight against corruption and other related vices.
"Indeed, as police, we will do our role to make your job much, much more lighter because what you do also makes our job much, much lighter.
"So as police, we do also here cement our commitment to the fight against corruption," Mr Mutentwa said.
The deal has been sealed and words have been spoken.
It is now incumbent upon the two institutions, in collaboration with other relevant law enforcement agencies and the general public, to put the MoU into action.
It should not end at that.
Ms Chifungula sums up everything by saying: "Our institutions must endeavour to ensure that this MoU's success does not end with the pomp and spledour of the signing ceremony, but that it contributes to the evolution of a much stronger working relationship between ourselves to the detrimentof those who choose the path of corruption and similar vices."