Malawi Law Society (MLS) has backed the decision of Auditor General (AG) Stephen Kamphasa to seek legal advice from the Attorney General before releasing names and companies named in the forensic audit that established that about K236 billion in public funds could not be reconciliated between 2009 and December 31 2014.
MLS president John Suzi-Banda said Malawians will be “acting like mindless zealots” to announce the list of shame before without seeking legal advice.
Kamphasa said there was some“legal implications” on the release of the names hence the decision to consult Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale for legal opinion.
And the law body has backed the decision as “perfectly normal” it was important that the Attorney General, as chief legal counsel for government, gives his advice on the possible legal ramifications of publicising the names while investigations were still underway.
“We would be acting like mindless zealots or an angry thoughtless mob seeking instant justice in naming and shaming suspects,” said MLS president as quoted by the local press.
“ What should be of most concern to us should be a solemn promise from the prosecutorial authorities to fervently pursue the suspects and ensure that justice is not only done, but be seen to be done,” he added.
He however urged the Attorney General to give the legal advice in a transparent manner to clear suspicion.
But in The Nation newspaper, lawyer Justin Dzonzi, observed that making the names public was essentially a choice between “two evils”.
“If we make them public, we risk breaching their right to privacy and in the event that those officers are absolved from any wrong-doing, then as a country we may end up facing defamation charges which may lead to government paying huge compensations,” Dzonzi is quoted saying.
Dzonzi , who is also executive director of Justice Link and board chairperson of Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) however, said keeping the information hidden was essentially protecting people who, by their conduct, have risked the wellbeing of Malawi.
“Now, most of these people are politicians who perhaps in 2019 will be going back to their constituents asking them to vote for them.
“If these constituents knew the specific individuals are not trustworthy and if put in power again they are liable to abuse then one would have thought publishing their names would better inform the public so that they make a good decision.”
He also observed that by keeping the names away from Parliament, the AG acted unlawfully because the Public Audit Act requires the National Audit Office to account to Parliament.
“But publishing the names in the newspaper perhaps could be a different story, so we should draw a distinction between those two,” he said.
The audit was conducted by British firm RSM Risk Insurance LLP.
According to the report, the audit found that K83.5 billion of the K236 billion which could not be accounted for was paid to 44 companies from the sample of 50 that the auditors selected to analyse.
The audit also found that billions were lost in overpayment of goods and services, duplicate payments and overpayment on shipping to wrong locations.
Initially, the amount suspected to have not been accounted for was pegged at K577 billion, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) data analysis released in May 2015.
However, the forensic audit established, through its testing of the system and controls, that the unreconciled funds could be in the region of K236 billion.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :