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 2009-09-25 08:59 pm Back to NEWS
Acquittal surprised me British envoy

Frederick Chiluba's acquittal surprised me, British High Commissioner to Zambia Tom Carter has said. And Danish Ambassador to Zambia Thomas Schjerbeck has said the world is watching with enormous interest to see how the conviction of Chiluba in the United Kingdom court is going to be transformed into a follow-up in Zambia. In an interview, High Commissioner Carter said the acquittal of Chiluba came as a surprise to the donor community, considering that the London High Court established that Chiluba was guilty.

"I was personally surprised at the decision to acquit Chiluba. There are two things in Chiluba's case. Firstly, I do acknowledge that it was a matter for the Zambian judiciary to decide on Chiluba's cases, but we have also seen that there is evidence to suggest that an appeal must have been lodged," he said.

Chiluba was last month acquitted on six counts of embezzling public funds amounting to US $500,000.

High Commissioner Carter expressed concern at the decision of the Zambian judiciary, saying a lot of money was at stake in the London High Court case.

"There is lots of money at stake in the London High Court case, and it is surprising that the Zambian government has decided not to pursue such large sums of money. We are talking of more than US $40 million in this case," he said.

High Commissioner Carter said the acquittal of Chiluba, and the subsequent blocking of an appeal against the acquittal by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had sent wrong signals to the donor community.

"The developments in Chiluba's case have sent very confused messages to the donor community. We [Britain] give Zambia about US $60 million each year in direct budgetary support, and we have to be accountable to the British taxpayers because they are the owners of this money," High Commissioner Carter said. "We need to ensure that the money that we give to Zambia is being spent correctly."

High Commissioner Carter said Zambia's corruption fight should not just be in words and declarations, but be matched with action.

"It is pleasing the President [Rupiah Banda] recently launched the Anti Corruption Policy. We have been supporting Zambia's corruption fight as donors, but we want to see this fight taken beyond words. We need to see implementation of policies. As international donors, we are looking for real action," said High Commissioner Carter.

And Ambassador Schjerbeck said the London judgment was a very important signal for institutions fighting corruption in Zambia.

"I am not going to comment on the Chiluba case because I have no opinion about, you know, I think it's for the courts really to investigate that and all the suspects and so on but I must say, though, that we are looking with enormous interest. All the world is looking with enormous interest to see how that conviction of Chiluba in the UK court is going to be transformed into a follow up in Zambia, that means that it's registered and that it's measured out what kind of consequences it should have. I mean that is a very important signal for the institutions here also to show the Zambians that it deals with these issues which have been long awaited and which is still being waited. But of course as an international partner for Zambia, I can't comment on the Chiluba case," he said.

He said corruption occurred more where the structures to combat corruption and contain it were weak.

Ambassador Schjerbeck said if the structures that deal with corruption were strong, follow-ups on what the Auditor General was recommending were made and if there was an independent judiciary, corruption would lessen.

He said in Denmark, there was a strong tradition for independence in those institutions and parliamentary control but there was still corruption.

"We have some horrible scandals so it doesn't mean that you can eradicate corruption. You can just say where the institutions are not strong enough, and independent enough, you tend to have more corruption. In Zambia I think I have been here before. I was here in the 80s so I have seen tremendous development to the better because you have to look at Zambia's development in the long-term perspective. How is it going and I think Zambia has moved forward enormously but there is still a lot to be done. But for me, looking to the future I see the constitution-making process as an enormously important step in strengthening the independence of these institutions," he said.

Ambassador Schjerbeck said it could be said that corruption was still there in Zambia but the country had moved a step forward with the anti corruption strategy.

He said Zambia still had to work with making institutions independent as a lot of the institutions were centered around the big cities especially in Lusaka.

Ambassador Schjerbeck said there was a lot of focus on the Auditor General and the institution's needs but this institution had already proven to be quite strong and efficient.

"And I commend the Auditor General office for that. The follow-up is of enormous importance and I really urge all the involved parties to take a critical look at the follow-up to the Auditor General's findings. This is what will create confidence with civil society and Zambia that the government is serious with these issues," he said.

And during the signing of a project document regarding the short term institutional support to the Office of the Auditor General by the Royal Danish Embassy, Ambassador Schjerbeck said the Danish government give Zambians money every year and it was important to ensure that the taxpayers who provided the money were satisfied and that the money was spent properly.

He said the over K3 billion provided was meant to enable the Office of the Auditor General carry out an audit in the road sector.

Auditor General Anna Chifungula said the support was for the recruitment of 15 officers for a period of six months.

Chifungula said this was in part to compensate for the officers that had been assigned on the audit of the road sector.

She said rising to the challenges of meeting the increased demand of service in the midst of financial crisis and other resources limitations had not been easy.

Chifungula said the office still had a total of 169 staff vacancies even to be able to meet all the planned activities.

Chifungula said the 2008 audit report was on course and was intended to be published on the due date this year.

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