ACB ‘sitting on’ 150 Director of Public Prosecutions’ consents

While the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) continues to blame the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for its failure to prosecute high-level corruption cases, Nyasa Times has gathered the Bureau is failing to act on 150 cases whose consents were already given.

ACB and DPP have recently been at loggerheads over guaranteeing of consent to two of the cases the ant-graft bursting body is pursuing.

However, revelations that the Bureau is ‘sitting on’ 150 whose consents were already given have raised concerns that while the ACB Director General Martha Chizuma has been complaining that the DPP Dr. Steven Kayuni has been withholding consent for two cases, one of them involving former Minister of Lands, Kezzie Msukwa, there is nothing much indicating movement on the consents already given.

Director of Public Prosecutions Dr Steve Kayuni

“About 100 consents were issued by the previous DPP and about 50 consents were received from the incumbent DPP Dr Kayuni. Apparently, nothing much signifying commendable progress is being done with the 150 consents. Therefore, the argument of withheld consents is a very small bush that the ACB is trying to hide in,” said one parliamentarian who is also a member of the Legal Affairs Committee of the House.

He added: “The ACB also added limited resources on the hiding bush. But reports are that the bureau has now received a further increment on resources. Maybe we will begin to see improvements. Until then, from where I am standing, there is more to the prevailing lack of progress at ACB. And that something answers to competence, particularly its lack.”

Most people, including the country’s former Vice President Khumbo Kachali, have raised concerns on how Chizuma has been handling many of the corruption cases currently in her office observing that there is more talk and complaints than real action on the ground.

Kachali observed that the lack of action, despite support and political will from President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera just shows that Chizuma is not competent enough for the office.

A recent letter to Chizuma from the Kayuni also exposed the ACB boss as incompetent and self-centred.

Kayuni, in the letter dated July 19 2022 raised concerns on how the ACB is handling the case involving the illegal use of President Peter Mutharika’s TPIN by some of his aid whereby she has opted to pursue her own angle to the matter departing from what other law enforcement agencies agreed.

The DPP admonished the head of the graft busting body describing her approach to investigations as an embarrassment and disappointment to other law enforcement agencies in the country.

Kayuni expressed worry that her “embarrassing” approach could derail or collapse the case and other cases connected to the matter including the “unexplained wealth charge” against Mutharika security aid Norman Chisale in which the state is pushing to have the his property confiscated.

“We reckon to state that your approach in this matter has embarrassed other law enforcement agencies, leaves a lot to be desired and a disappointment to the agencies with a potential of derailing the ongoing Unexplained Wealth Charge on NPC (Chisale), that we had earlier of requested for an update,” says Kayuni, in the letter copied to the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General, the FIA Director General, MRA Commissioner General and the Inspector General of Police.

He added: “As overall in charge of prosecutions in the country, we urge your good office to pursue what other law enforcement agencies are currently doing that is adherence to the Law Enforcement Coordination Strategy regardless of our independent legal frameworks. Ours is service to Malawians and we cannot afford disarrays or outwits. We can do better and we need to do better.”

Following complaints from Chizuma that the DPP has been withholding consent to some of the cases, Members of Parliament were forced to pass a motion allowing the tabling of a bill which seeks to amend the Corrupt Practices Act so that it gives the ACB powers to prosecute without seeking consent from the DPP.

The trigger to this came in January this year when Kayuni refused to grant the ACB consent to prosecute businessman Zuneth Sattar’s agent Kumar Sreedharan, also known as Ashok Nair, and four others. Kayuni denied the consent on the grounds that ACB had not provided supporting documents, it is reported that to-date the ACB has failed to provide the required information which the DPP office indicated that was crucial for a successful prosecution.

The clash stirred public interest and, despite interventions for a truce between the two, it would seem the fallout has not ended with new revelations on professional differences.

In July 2020, police arrested a bodyguard of the former President, Norman Chisale, and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) deputy commissioner, Roza Mbilizi, on the TPIN matter which has led to the latest crash between the two law enforcing agencies.

Early this month, ACB arrested Mbilizi again and two other officials, Fredrick Mpeusa, former manager for Customs and Excise and Abigail Kawamba, deputy commissioner responsible for enforcement and operations for their alleged involvement in the cement importation case.

In its statement, ACB said investigations on the matter commenced in August 2020.

Chizuma is yet to comment on the latest revelations that she is sitting on 150 consents and on the letter from the DPP with ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala, in response to media inquiries, saying her boss would respond to the formally to the issues raised and not through the media.

Executive director for the Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Willy Kambwandira has since described the issues surrounding ACB and the DPP’s office as an indication of atmosphere of mistrust among the anti-corruption agencies.

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