Govt. wants ACB’s independence on hold

Malawi Government wants the decision to amend the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) with an aim to empower the country’s graft busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to have the independence to prosecuting corruption suspects without interference, Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Titus Mvalo has said.

Mvalo disclosed Monday that his ministry wants the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament to delay its decision of amending the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA), a development that will give the independence to the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) to have freedom to decide on its own when prosecuting corruption cases.

“We would like the the decision to amend the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) delayed so we can conduct wider consultations,” Mvalo said.

Currently, the ACB seeks consent from the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) on whether or not to prosecute cases before the law, a legal requirement many believe is an impediment for ACB’s pursuit to fighting corruption as mandated independently.

Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo

The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament last week announced that it would be bringing up before the August House a Private Member’s Motion and Bill to amend Section 42 of the CPA in order to remove the legal hiccup that chokes ACB’s independence.

The section in question legally requires the ACB to seek consent from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) before prosecuting anyone.

The decision arose following an inquiry the committee conducted into circumstances that led to the DPP withholding consent from the ACB, which wanted to go ahead with the prosecution of Ashok Nair, for his alleged involvement in a corruption-related case.

The Justice minister, Mvalo, therefore met Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee chairperson, Peter Dimba, who suggested that the minister must meet all members of the Legal Affairs Committee and map up a way forward.

During the meeting between the Justice minister and the entire Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee, it is envisaged that Attorney General Thabo Chakaka Nyirenda and DPP Dr. Steven Kayuni will also attend the meeting and inform committee members about the ministry’s position on the matter.

Mvalo said the government had come up with a National Prosecution Policy that intends to address problems associated with prosecution and like issues.

He said: “When it [the National Prosecution Policy] comes into place, then we would need to amend the law so that it should be aligned to the policy. In my view, that would be the right point to amend, not just the Corrupt Practices Act. Even the Penal Code and other laws that relate to the prosecution of cases [have to be included].”

The justice minister said the policy covers wider areas such that, after its implementation, it would lead to the creation of a National Prosecution Authority, allowing several people to be in charge of public prosecutions.

In its enquiry on the consent matter, the committee summoned both ACB Director General Martha Chizuma and Kayuni and concluded that Section 42 interferes with the independence of the graft-fighting body and therefore that the law needs to be amended in order to empower ACB in the fight against graft in the country.

The Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee chair, Dimba said all committee members unanimously made the resolution to amend the law on ACB’s independence in order to give the corruption fighting state agency strong biting teeth.

Said Dimba: “It was difficult for me to provide immediate responses to the minister since the report was produced by the entire committee.”

Dimba revealed last week the committee would bring a motion and bill to Parliament.

However, some lawyers have argued that amending provisions of the Act would contravene Section 99 of the Constitution, which mandates the DPP to be above anyone, or institutions, in the management of criminal cases in the country.

One of the lawyers, George Kadzipatike stated that the office of DPP was created by the supreme law of the land while the ACB office is created by an Act of Parliament, hence the amendment would not stop the DPP from exercising powers that are provided for in the Constitution.

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