Zambia 2021


Zambia ranks number 117 out of 180 countries, appearing in the bottom half of Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). With a current score of 33/100,1 Zambia’s CPI score has dropped 5 points since 2013 signaling increasing levels of corruption and insufficient system of measures to curb it in place. The 2019 Global Corruption Barometer estimated that 1 in every 5 individuals had paid a bribe to receive public services such as health and education.2

In 2018, the Zambian Financial Intelligence Centre received reports of suspected corruption worth about USD 622 million, many of them linked to public procurement contracts.3 Even funds received to tackle the COVID 19 pandemic had reportedly been mismanaged. Anti-corruption has recently been high on the political agenda and has been amongst the key messages of the opposition leading up to the 2021 general elections.4

While Zambia has legislation that prohibits corruption, extortion, bribery of a foreign public official, and the abuse of office and money laundering, the law is not enforced consistently. Transparency International Zambia (TIZ) estimates that the average conviction rate for the prosecution of corruption is between 10% to 20%.5

Moreover, Zambia lacks adequate regulations on facilitation payments and freedom of information. There is currently no law to regulate facilitation payments and the maximum allowable value of gifts or hospitality.6 Zambian public officials are not subject to financial disclosure laws. Citizens are also limited on how far they can hold the government to account, as there is currently no law guaranteeing access to information.7

Zambia’s Public Interest Disclosure Act is supposed to provide legal protection for civil servants or private sector employees reporting cases of corruption, but the law does not adequately protect them. Section 13(3) of the act imposes criminal liability on a person who makes a public interest disclosure,8 that is malicious, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith or where the disclosure was made for pecuniary gain. This discourages whistleblowers as the penalty can be a payment of a fine or even imprisonment.9

Zambia’s civil society organisations (CSOs) operate in a restrictive environment. Civil society voices are constrained for example by charges of conduct likely to cause a breach of peace imposed on them for protesting against corruption. These charges are usually dropped and act as a tool for intimidation. Despite the lack of acceptance for critical voices and attempts by the government to close civic space, civil society has been active in monitoring good governance and lobbying for change.

Asset recovery in Zambia

Zambia enacted the Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime Act No.19 in 2010 to provide for the: confiscation of the proceeds of crime; deprivation of any person of any proceeds, benefits, or property derived from the commission of any serious offence; facilitation of the tracing of any proceeds, benefit, and property derived from the commission of any serious offence. The Zambian Cabinet established the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA), which includes the Asset Forfeiture Department (AFD) in 2012 to support the enforcement the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Zambia’s Financial Intelligence Unit is an important element of the asset recovery framework. Established in 2010, the Financial Intelligence Unit works as a separate entity that collects suspicious financial reports then disseminates information to law enforcement agencies. After investigations have been concluded, prosecution of all the matters is done by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) who heads the National Prosecutions Authority. However, the portfolio of asset recovery is also the mandate of the Anti-Money Laundering Investigations Unit (AMLIU), the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), the Zambia Police Service (ZPS) and the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).

There is no single account for the forfeited proceeds of crime and asset management after seizure, confiscation or forfeiture is left to each law enforcement agency separately. This lack of asset management has also left immovable property at the mercy of criminals, looters and poachers.

Successful asset recovery is being hampered by corruption in Zambia’s judiciary10 and the slow pace of investigation of existing cases.11 Corruption amongst the judicial community (including court personnel and lawyers) is also perceived to be problematic.12 According to Transparency International, 28% of Zambians think that judges and magistrates are corrupt, and 70% of Zambians think that the government isn’t doing enough to fight corruption.13 Attempts at a judicial reform have been unsuccessful over the years.14 Many prosecutions and court decisions are thus perceived to be politically motivated.15 As argued by Transparency International, the Zambian judiciary is often manipulated by the executive, with judicial appointments being within the ambit of the president’s powers. This has also been the case of the six appointed judges in the constitutional court, who all failed to meet the defined eligibility requirements for their positions, and “some of whom were known to be close to the president”.16

Asset recovery reform

In the national election of 2021, former President Edgar Lungu’s failure to investigate corruption allegations in light of the increasing fiscal debt was a main message of his opponent, Hakainde Hichilema.17 Once elected President Hakainde Hichilema spoke to press saying that he had inherited an “empty treasury” as a result of “horrifying” amounts of money that had been stolen.18

Much of Zambia’s advancements in asset recovery has been pushed forward from external pressure. In 2018, Britain, Finland, Ireland and Sweden withheld nearly USD 34 million in aid to Zambia’s social welfare and education sectors because of concerns over financial mismanagement.19

Progress in asset recovery

The Anti-Corruption Commission is reported to have received a total of 539 reports of suspected corruption in 2020 alone, 745 cases had been reported in the preceding year and 980 in 2018. Of the reported cases in 2020, 253 were regarded as corruption-related, with 182 of the reports authorized for investigation, adding to a backlog of cases that had still been under investigation from previous years. 913 cases are reported to have been carried forward for investigations in 2021. The anti-corruption commission is reported to have concluded only 74 cases in 2020, making 22 arrests in the year. Between 2018 and 2020, a total of K 63,742,199 (approximately USD 2,800,000) was recovered from cases arising from the Auditor-General’s reports.20

In 2019, Zambia is reported to have investigated 232 new cases of money laundering, through several government agencies,21 of which 70 were cases of seizures. The value of the seizure orders amounted to USD 7,145,298. Overall, nine successful forfeiture orders were obtained, which amounted to the value of USD 6,588,000.22

Domestic recovery

There are many corruption cases currently being investigated by Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Commission. Some of the most notable cases the Anti-Corruption Commission is working through include:

  • Allegations of corruption involving the Ministry of Health regarding alleged irregularities in the awarding of a tender to Honeybee Pharmaceuticals. In 2020, it was revealed that Zambia’s Ministry of Health awarded a USD 17 million contract to Honeybee Pharmacy Limited which did not exist at the time when the contract was awarded. Honeybee is later said to have supplied medical equipment, of which some was defective. With full knowledge of the defective medical supplies, the Ministry of Health through its Medical Stores Limited allowed for the distribution of the defective drugs.23 The Anti-Corruption Commission is expected to soon submit the docket to the National Prosecutions Authority for further action.
  • Since the start of the COVID 19 pandemic, the government has received a number of donations from individuals, corporations, the international community and donors to fight the pandemic. According to an interim audit report for the period from February 1 to July 31, released by the Auditor-General’s office, a total of 1.3 billion Zambian Kwacha (about USD 62 million) was mismanaged in various unexplained transactions.24 The Commission has been investigating the matter, and investigations have reached an advanced stage.
  • Investigations into alleged corruption in the process through which the Ministry of Health procured ambulances at USD 288,000 per ambulance from an international supplier, when the same ambulances would have been sourced locally for USD 74,000 per ambulance.25 Investigations into this matter have been concluded and the case will be submitted to the Legal and Prosecutions Department.

International Recovery

As a way to aid asset recovery efforts, Zambia is a member of a number of networks on corruption and asset recovery. These include the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network for Southern Africa (ARINSA), which allows it to exchange information and model legislation in asset forfeiture, confiscation and money laundering. The ARINSA 2019 report suggested that Zambia is an active member that has benefited from technical support in the form of capacity building workshops and a mentorship programme where a mentor was assigned to aid the enforcement agencies. ARINSA has also aided Zambia with the development of a draft asset management manual.26 

International Institutional Engagement

Zambia is a member of the Southern African Forum against Corruption (SAFAC), established in 2001. SAFAC is a network of anti-corruption bodies and representatives of governments in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The body aims at operationalizing the SADC Anti-Corruption Committee (SACC), established under the SADC Protocol Against Corruption.27

Zambia is also a member of Eastern and Southern Africa Anti-Money Laundering Group (ESAAMLG). The country participated in the mutual evaluation process, which reviews effectiveness of anti-money laundering measures and their level of compliance with the FATF Recommendations. The evaluation outcome report stressed that while Zambia demonstrates the ability to identify tainted property, the number of confiscations of criminal assets and property are low and is not performed as a policy objective.28

In May 2021, the Zambian Anti-Corruption Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Centre for Asset Recovery (ICAR) that will enable the two institutions to work together to implement strategies aimed at enhancing the fight against corruption in Zambia. In particular, ICAR will support the Commission’s efforts to investigate and prosecute corruption cases and to identify and recover stolen assets. This includes also support for international cooperation to obtain intelligence and evidence from abroad.29


Zambia’s constitution has provisions for freedoms of assembly and association; however, these rights are not respected by the government in practice. Demonstrations by opposition parties and civil society are known to have been broken up using force.30

While Zambia’s NGO Act 2009 was said to have been legislated in good spirits, CIVICUS notes that this has impeded rather than enabled freedom of association and increased the government’s influence over NGOs; registration fees and disclosure requirements have created obstacles for new organisations and have led to the dissolution of existing NGOs.31

CIVICUS’ monitor tracking civic space evaluates the situation for civil society in Zambia as “obstructed”, number 3 on their 1-5 scale. This means that even though citizens can organize and form NGOs, they are being regularly constrained, both legally and politically, and at times they might be subject to government violence.32 This volatile environment encourages self-censorship, which, according to our interviews with civil society activists, is said to have increased in the recent years.


  1. Transparency International Zambia. Zambia Corruption Perception Index 2020. Available at:  https://tizambia.org.zm/corruption-perceptions-index/
  2. Transparency International. 2019. The Global Corruption Barometer – Africa. Available at: https://www.transparency.org/en/publications/gcb-africa-2019
  3. Finance Intelligence Centre. 2018. Trends Report. Available at: https://www.fic.gov.zm/79-fic-news/104-trends-report-2018/
  4. The Mast. 2021. Elections are a referendum on Lungus corruption. Available at: https://www.themastonline.com/2021/06/21/2021-elections-are-a-referendum-on-lungus-corruption/, Transparency International Zambia 2020, Zambia Medical Supply Scandal blog. Available at: https://www.transparency.org/en/blog/cpi-2020-zambia-medical-supply-scandal-anti-corruption-key-electoral-issue/
  5. Kaunain Rahman, Overview of corruption and anti-corruption in Zambia, U4 Helpdesk Answer, Transparency International and U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (2020), p. 8.
  6. GAN Integrity. 2020. Country Profiles- Zambia. Available at: https://www.ganintegrity.com/portal/country-profiles/zambia/
  7. All Africa. 2020. Zambia: Government Should Expedite Enactment of ATI Law, https://allafrica.com/stories/202010090038.html/
  8. The public interest disclosures – protection of Whistle Blowers Act No.4 of 2010. Available at: http://www.parliament.gov.zm/sites/default/files/documents/acts/Public%20Interest%20Disclosure%20%28Protection%20of%20Whistleblowers%29%20Act%202010.PDF/
  9. Ndulo. 2014. Anti-corruption Legal Framework in Zambia. Available at: http://saipar.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Ndulo_Review-of-the-Anti-corruption-Legal-Framework1.pdf/
  10. U4 2020. Zambia Overview of Corruption and Anti-Corruption. Available at: https://www.u4.no/publications/zambia-overview-of-corruption-and-anti-corruption-2020/
  11. Anti-Corruption Commission first quarter report 2021. Available at: http://www.acc.gov.zm/download/acc-holds-first-quarter-media-briefing-for-2021/?fbclid=IwAR3hbAg9sCWCoGrvDF3MN5-mrCaXQZLkZYjyh4w2m9IsRRZSsQTlVly9pAQ
  12. Rahman, Kaunain. 2020. Zambia Overview of Corruption and Anti-Corruption. U4. Available at: https://www.u4.no/publications/zambia-overview-of-corruption-and-anti-corruption-2020/
  13. Transparency International. 2019. Global Corruption Barometer Africa. Available at: https://images.transparencycdn.org/images/2019_GCB_Africa3.pdf
  14. GAN Integrity. 2020. Country Profiles Zambia. Available at: https://www.ganintegrity.com/portal/country-profiles/zambia/
  15. Freedom House. 2017. Freedom in the World 2017, Populists and Autocrats: The Dual Threat to Global Democracy. Available at: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2017/populists-and-autocrats-dual-threat-global-democracy/
  16. Bertelsmann Stiftung. 2020. BTI 2O2O Country Report: Zambia.
  17. Transparency International Zambia. 2020. Zambia Medical Scandal blog. Available at: https://www.transparency.org/en/blog/cpi-2020-zambia-medical-supply-scandal-anti-corruption-key-electoral-issue/, Digger’s news. 2020. Lungu Sustaining Thriving Environment for Corruption. Available at: https://diggers.news/local/2020/11/13/lungu-sustaining-thriving-environment-for-corruption-upnd/, Digger’s news. 2021. Lungu a Giant of Corruption. Available at: https://diggers.news/local/2021/03/02/lungu-a-giant-of-corruption-kalaba/
  18. BBC. 2021, September 1. Zambian President Hichilema inherits ’empty treasury’. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-58408951
  19. Reuters. 2021. Zambia Ex Minister Jailed for Graft Case That Led to Aid Freeze. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/zambia-ex-minister-jailed-graft-case-that-led-aid-freeze-2021-05-28/
  20. Anti-Corruption Commission 2020. Available at: http://www.acc.gov.zm/acc-records-22-arrest-12-convictions-in-2020-as-k63million-is-recovered-in-last-two-years/
  21. Anti-Money Laundering Investigations Unit (AMLIU), The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), The Zambia Police Service (ZPS) and the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA).
  22. ARINSA. 2019. Annual Report. Available at: https://new.arinsa.org/pluginfile.php/189/block_html/content/ARINSA%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf?time=1602589380250
  23. Lusaka Times. 2021. HoneyBee Corrupt Medical Supply Scandal is a Crime Against Humanity, People Must be Prosecuted. Available at: https://www.lusakatimes.com/2021/01/08/honeybee-corrupt-medical-supply-scandal-is-a-crime-against-humanity-people-must-be-prosecuted-2/
  24. Xinhuanet. 2020. Stakeholders in Zambia call for thorough probe into misapplication of COVID-19 funds. Available at: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2020-11/10/c_139506712.htm, Office of the Auditor General. 2020. Interim Report on the Utilization of Covid19 funds. Available at: https://www.ago.gov.zm/?wpfb_dl=210/
  25. As reported in a Parliamentary Debates. Available at: https://www.parliament.gov.zm/node/7338
  26. ARINSA. 2019. Annual Report. Available at: https://new.arinsa.org/pluginfile.php/189/block_html/content/ARINSA%20Annual%20Report%202019.pdf?time=1602589380250
  27. SADC. 2015. SADC and SACC to Fight corruption. Available at: https://www.sadc.int/news-events/news/sadc-and-sacc-fight-corruption/
  28. ESAAMLG. 2019. Mutual Evaluation Report. Available at: https://www.esaamlg.org/reports/MER%20Zambia-June%202019.pdf
  29. Basel Institute of Governance. 2021 New partnership with Zambia’s Anti-Corruption Commission in the fight against corruption. Available at: https://baselgovernance.org/news/new-partnership-zambias-anti-corruption-commission-fight-against-corruption
  30. GAN Integrity 2020. Available at: https://www.ganintegrity.com/portal/country-profiles/zambia/
  31. The Non-Governmental Organisations Act, (2009). Available at: https://zambialii.org/zm/legislation/act/2009/16/noa2009343.pdf/, CIVICUS Analysis of the 2009 NGO Act. Available at: http://www.civicus.org/media/446-CIVICUS-Analysis-Zambia-NGO-Bill-2009.pdf
  32. CIVICUS. 2021. Monitor Tracking Civil Space. Accessible at: https://www.civicus.org/index.php/what-we-do/innovate/civicus-monitor