The operational independence of the Malawi’s graft-busting body, Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) has considerably been compromised since President Peter Mutharika appointed Lucas Kondowe as Director General of ACB in October 2014 and the bureau has become immaterial, economist Henry Kachaje has observed.
Kachaje made the observation in a presentation he made at Public Affairs Committee (PAC) annual general meeting in Blantyre on Tuesday on governance.
“We have an ACB in name and not in action,” said Kachaje in his presentation titled ‘Corruption: Impact on Political and Socioeconomic Landscape in Malawi.”
According to Kachaje, ACB is as good as being shut down and channel the resources to provision of other essential services as the bureau is no longer relevant.
Kachaje challenged the multi-faith organisation PAC to do a soul-searching and find a way of ending corruption which is worsening in the country just the Catholic Bishop did in 1992 through the Pastoral Letter to end the one party dictatorship.
“The economic environment in the country is difficult and the upright business people find it tough to operate. As the result, they resort to some vices in order to survive thereby losing their moral standing,” said Kachaje, a motivational speaker.
“This has made corruption not spare the business sector. The nation is rotten to the core from the public service to the private sector,” he added.
He said for every one percent of corruption development goes down 0.7 percent and illustrated the point with graphical presentation which included some roads that have been constructed in the country (mostly by Mota Engil) but are slowly wearing out.
“There are substandard roads and bridges that have been constructed across the country. The contractors have no basic engineering skills but corruption enable them get contracts. You can see the results, the roads are developing faults and in the next two seasons, they will be nonexistence,” he said.
PAC spokesman Fr Mulomole said Malawians can also take action by demonstrating against rising corruption the way they protested against Termination of Pregnancy Bill.
ACB boss Kondowe has been a weakest link in the fight against corruption. He has also been hit with series of controversies including being fingered in corruption allegations.
There are allegations by Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) that Kondowe was abusing his powers by seeking to influence the awarding of a contract for the construction of its headquarters building.
The apparent inaction on the warrant of arrests for Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) national organising secretary Richard Makondi and businessperson Mohammad Kassam also put ACB on the spotlight.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Mary Kachale, continues to enjoy the public’s confidence but there is widespread worry that she may not be able to prevail against ACB Director Kondowe, whose intervention in the prosecutorial process has grown.
Formerly with First Merchant Bank, Kondowe has a strong relationship with the governing DPP’s Makondi. That explains, say many Malawians, why Makondi has not been prosecuted over an alleged fraud in 2013 involving a prominent businessman, Kassam, in a K895 m. ($1.2 mn.) deal to supply 35 Toyota vehicles to the Malawi Defence Force.
Its former Commander, General Henry Odillo, and his deputy Clement Kafuwa were arrested over the deal in May last year but Kassam and Makondi have not been touched .
In March, a magistrate granted the ACB an arrest warrant for Makondi and Kassam, owner of Globe Electronics but the warrants were never enforced.
Insiders say Kondowe is responsible.
Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national secretary Martin Chiphwanya said recent events at the bureau, such as reports of blocking warrants of arrest and fears of political interference, have led to lack of confidence in its operations.
“We have a bureau widely seen as ineffective but also unfairly using its powers. The recent allegations and reports against the leadership of the bureau have in particular been more damaging,” said Chiphwanya.
The President of the Malawi Law Society, John Suzi Banda, said the ACB’s ‘operational independence has been fatally compromised’.
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