High Court judge Charles Mkandawire has rebuked the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for “not being serious” on matters of national interest after missing to appear before in court on the matter in which outspoken Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general (SG) Grezeider Jeffrey wa Jeffrey is demanding compensation from the tax payer following her acquittal in the K187 million Ministry of Education scam during the Bakili Muluzi administration.
ACB lawyers did not appear in court on July 20, claiming they had forgotten to endorse the date in the diary,
Judge Mkandawire wondered how ACB would forget to appear in court on a matter it claimed is of importance to them, saying the deveopmes “comes as a shock.”
He said: It is not clear from the submission as to who had forgotten to come to court on that day. If it is true, the one would not be wrong to say the Anti-Corruption Bureau is really not serious on matters of national importance such as this one.”
The court has ruled that the matter be reheard as ACB, saying the matter is “complex” and that the court woul benefit if both sides present their arguments.
Mkandawire said expects ACB to enforce “professional discipline” to ensure progress in the matter but slapped the bureau with costs of the proceedings.
Jeffrey and others, who initially sued government for about K12 billion (about $26.7 million), are claiming compensation for false imprisonment, defamation, breach of contract and malicious prosecution for allegedly defrauding millions from the Ministry of Education in a scam exposed in the early 2000s.
Documents filed at the High Court of Malawi in Lilongwe indicate that Jeffrey, Brian Phiri and two deceased civil servants who worked under the Ministry of Education took government to court following the actions and decisions of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the National Audit Office (NAO).
The complainants accuse the Auditor General’s office of defaming Jeffrey in its audit report of March 2000 by alleging that her business connived with a divisional education office in Kasungu to defraud government.
The statement of claim, filed in December last year, also states that Jeffrey lost an estimated K14 275 971.12 following government’s order to stop payment of a cheque and balance for completed work at Msalura Community Day Secondary School.
In total, the plaintiffs are demanding a sum of K12 135 984 477 plus action costs.
Jeffrey ,who is also Nkhotakota South legislator (DPP), reportedly has asked for the K900 million compensation and that the State was discussing with her lawyers to have the amount reduced.
During the 11-year trial, Jeffrey and her fellow co-accused answered charges of corrupt practices with a public officer, obtaining money by false pretence, theft, uttering false documents, corrupt use of official powers, forgery and making a false warrant for money.
Jeffrey is being represented by lawyer Ralph Mhone, who is also Nkhata Bay Central member of Parliament (MP) for People’s Party (PP) and former partner in lawfirm with ex-State vice president Dr Cassim Chilumpja a close ally of Jeffrey.
About 55 people were implicated in the scam, but only four—including former principal secretary for Ministry of Education Sam Safuli—were convicted and jailed, although two of the convictions were later set aside by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
The rest of the suspects, including civil servants and several contractors, had their cases dropped or were acquitted due to lack of sufficient evidence.
The K187 million Ministry of Education scandal was exposed through an audit which revealed a breakdown in financial controls and internal check systems in the ministry.
Safuli was sentenced to two years imprisonment for aiding and abetting theft of K100 000. He was convicted together with managing director of Tapempha Building Contractors, Esther Kathumba, who got four and two years imprisonment for theft of K596 802 and attempted theft of K1 999 920, respectively, from the ministry.
Esther’s husband, Henry Kathumba, who was managing Khristu Nafe Building Contractors, was given a two-year jail term for theft of K100 000 which he collected from the ministry.
Snowden Joya, a quantity surveyor in the ministry, was sentenced to three years imprisonment for forging six certificates for completion of work for projects that were never finished.
But eight months after the convictions, the Supreme Court of Appeal set aside Safuli and Jiya’s convictions and quashed their sentences.
The court also quashed theft charges against the Kathumbas and substituted them with theft by false pretence.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :