As corruption in the country has significantly worsened , several stakeholders bemoaning the slowdown in Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) prosecutions since President Peter Mutharika appointed Lucas Kondowe as Director General of ACB in October 2014.
Kondowe 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 mn. ($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’.
Other prominent individuals are benefiting.
In early July Kondowe took the unusual step of visiting media houses to explain that after lengthy enquiries costing billions of kwacha, there was not enough evidence to proceed with the case against former President Bakili Muluzi on charges of theft of state funds.
Muluzi was first arrested in July 2006 accused of diverting $11 mn. in funds that had been gifted by Libya, Morocco, Kuwait and Taiwan.
Despite being arrested again in 2009 and despite 86 counts of diversion of public funds being compiled laid against him, no prosecution has taken place.
Kondowe’s deputy, Reyneck Matemba, recused himself on 5 May from the Muluzi case reportedly over the pressure he was under from Kondowe. He has been under pressure for some time.
It was widely believed that the murder of the ACB Corporate Affairs Director, Issa Njauju, in July 2015 was a case of mistaken identity and that Matemba, who has been an effective prosecutor in Cashgate and other corruption cases, could have been the intended target.
A governance and corruption survey report report, prepared by Blessings Chinsinga, Boniface Dulani, Peter Mvula and Joseph Chunga, all from Chancellor College recommends undertaking of a comprehensive political economy analysis of the implementation of the anti-corruption efforts which it says will be quite critical in terms of identifying barriers to and opportunities for implementation of anti-corruption strategies.
It also recommends review and strengthening the anti-corruption legislative framework because a robust legal and regulatory framework properly enforced guarantees legitimacy.
The report further encourages promotion of a culture of reporting corrupt activities by both citizens and public officials, among others.
Many people who spoke to Nyasa Times said ACB is always influenced by the political decisions of incumbent leadership and also cited the powers of appointment as the weakest link.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :