Centre for Public Accountability demands immediate suspension of AG’s decision to grant amnesty ‘for thieves’

Centre for Public Accountability has registered its strongest protest and disappointment with Attorney General, Thabo Chakaka-Nyirenda’s “unilateral decision to announce amnesty for all thieves of public finances” and has since asked for the immediate suspension of the amnesty.

This follows a statement the AG made on Sunday and a subsequent press briefing on Monday, where he reiterated the amnesty.

In a statement issued by Centre for Public Accountability acting Director Kondwani Bell Munthali, says the AG consistently referred to powers he has in making the decision during the press conference.

Kondwani Munthali: condemns AG’s unilateral decision on amnesty

“We wish to remind you of the principles enshrined in section 12 of the Malawi constitution stipulates the following in terms of the source and conditional use of such powers;

(a) all legal and political authority of the State derives from the people of Malawi and shall be exercised in accordance with this Constitution solely to serve and protect their interests;

(b) all persons responsible for the exercise of powers of State do so on trust and shall only exercise such power to the extent of their lawful authority and in accordance with their responsibilities to the people of Malawi;

(c) the authority to exercise power of State is conditional upon the sustained trust of the people of Malawi and that trust can only be maintained through open, accountable and transparent Government and informed democratic choice.

Copied to Minister of Justice; the Chief Justice; the Anti-Corruption Bureau; chairpersons Parliamentary Legal Affairs and Public Accounts Committees; diplomatic missions and United Nations Systems in Malawi, Munthali thus says “in this regard we wish to strongly argue that you suspend your decision with immediate effect, as it is not in the interest of Malawians and immediately institute the following steps to ensure that public interests are served:

1. Publish immediately list of all cases in court and under investigation, their details from amounts to ownership of those companies for the period ending December 31, 2021, that would qualify for your amnesty.

“This will help Malawians understand who qualifies and on what basis and what is expected to be recovered. You cannot ask for a blanket amnesty when you are hiding information from the public.

2. Publish all contracts, including dates and amounts by Messrs. Sattar, Batawatatala, Zameer Karim and SF International, recently barred from doing business with public entities;

3. Institute, with immediate effect a Commission of Inquiry, with a specific deadline of 180 days, to openly investigate the extent of fraud and corruption in public procurement from 2010 to 2021, to find out who is involved, expose the cartels defrauding Malawians and prescribe short term and long-term solutions;

4. Institute, a special Anti-Corruption court within the High Court, to be headed on contract by a Judge from outside Malawi, who will expedite the hearings, with specified timelines. The Director of Public Prosecutions should also have a specialist team, hire extra lawyers dedicated to concluding cases which are stagnant.

The CPA Open Malawi project contends that it strongly believes that “only using the aforesaid steps, would genuinely be in the interest of Malawians before amnesty is considered — as repeatedly said by the AG during the press conference that those that want to return the funds, should go through the court”.

Munthali asks the AG “to desist from making and announcing unilateral decisions, without consulting or informing key stakeholders such as Anti-Corruption Bureau, to avoid undermining both the confidence and integrity of the offices”.

Soon after the AG’s public statement on Sunday, the ACB issued its own, saying the Bureau was reviewing Chakaka-Nyirenda’s announcement on the granting of the 60-day amnesty to all those who might have corruptly accumulated wealth through dealings with, amongst others, Zuneth Sattar.

As per its legal mandate, the ACB said it was still proceeding with the investigations against Sattar in cooperation with the National Crime Agency, UK — a stand that showed Chakaka-Nyirenda’s office acted alone in granting the amnesty.

ACB’s Principal Public Relations Officer, Egrita Ndala said the Bureau only came to know of the amnesty through numerous inquiries it received from various journalists and the public.

The Bureau this assured that it will update the public on the decision it will take as regards to the announcement from the AG in line with their investigations on Sattar and others.

After the amnesty received total condemnation by the concerned public following the response from the ACB, the AG retracted his statement, saying the declared amnesty will not involve those who the state has overwhelming evidence against or kingpins of corruption, citing indiviuals such as Sattar, Karim Batatawala and Zameer Karim as among those who will not be considered for amnesty.

The AG said the amnesty will mostly involve individuals for whom investigators may not have evidence against but who can testify against the kingpins of corruption, adding that any senior government officials such as Ministers who appear on the Sattar list will not be beneficiaries of the amnesty.

But Munthali further says looking at the presentation at the press conference, cautions the AG over the repeatedly use of the word ‘supervisory powers’ of his office “to constitute as a mandate to direct and control prosecutions in Malawi”.

“The Constitution is very clear on the prosecutorial independence of the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions and to the same extent the Anti-Corruption Bureau. We ask you to refrain from interfering with these offices, as your announcement might be constituted.

“The CPA-Open Malawi, by copy of these letter to several foreign representatives, wishes to appeal for special funding and specialists (corruption, fraud, and international money laundering) to the ACB to be able to conclude and prosecute thieves and enablers that continue to condemn Malawians to perpetual poverty.

“Should you find no merit to undertake the steps as proposed which would meet the Constitutional principle 12, 1 (c), the CPA-Open Malawi would request that you resign from office for interfering with prosecutions, undermining the independence of prosecution agencies and that the public has lost confidence in your good self,” Munthali said.

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Tadala J Chiwongola
Tadala J Chiwongola
6 months ago

Good move by the Accountability hub right there.

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