Zambia: Probe Unearthed Financial Illegalities

THE level of financial illegality which allegedly went on during the immediate past government administration seems to have been unprecedented.

It seems any basic investigations into any field would reveal huge scandals or anomalies which have also seemingly continued.

It is high time entities like the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Drug Enforcement Commission and the like woke up and started actively following up on what happened and what is happening.

The past week, we ran a series of reports on the expose of some alleged looting which has allegedly been taking place at the ministry of Finance.

The allegations are on many employees and some named top officials at the ministry which is in charge of the national treasury.

Now the Bankers Association of Zambia (BAZ) has attributed the shortage of cash on the market, to hefty withdrawals made prior to the August 12 general elections.

Additionally, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) says from January to September this year K8.6 billion was deposited in corporate accounts out of which K8.5 billion has now been withdrawn which, however, cannot now be traced.

According to BAZ chief executive officer Leonard Mwanza, colossal sums of money was withdrawn ahead of the August polls which has not yet been deposited back into the banks.

Indeed, prior to the elections and afterwards, there was a huge demand for cash where a lot of people withdrew colossal amounts from the banking system.

Normally, by now the money should have gone back to the banks but unfortunately the cash is not being re-deposited as expected.

That has slowed down the cycle and ultimately the economic performance.

This is because, we are aware that the amount of money in circulation is crucial to the health of its economy.

If there is not enough money in circulation, as it is now in Zambia, the economy cannot grow.

It is clear that the individuals or organisations who withdrew the money and have not deposited it are hoarding the money for their selfish reason because it was ill-obtained and they are now scared of being detected by various law enforcement agencies like FIC.

At operational level, the negative development, on the supply cycle of cash has constrained the banks which have had challenges in terms of loading cash in their Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

We agree with BAZ that the other challenge is that people and businesses are experiencing delays and disruptions in their transactions, leading to the scenario which is "not sound economic development".

On Saturday the Bank of Zambia issued a statement stating that there has been a sharp, unprecedented rise in demand for cash countrywide in the past few months and advised the public to utilise electronic payment platforms where possible.

The revelation by FIC director general Mary Chirwa that it is not known where the billions of Kwacha has been taken by people who withdrew it are serious.

We are aware that as a consequence of a shortage of money, the price of money increases, and this reduces the demand for consumption and investment.

As a result, economic growth slows down, which is likely to occur in Zambia if the current situation is not arrested.

What is even more saddening is that some of dubious activities which could have caused the current depressed development seems to be continuing, well under the new government.

For instance, Ms Chirwa reveals that from August 12, this year, FIC has received 250 suspicious transaction reports which is quite telling.

This could account for anxieties which have gripped some citizens on the need for President Hakainde Hichilema to move expeditiously and appoint the Cabinet and other top government leaders to ensure normalcy retains.

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