The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has accused President Lazarus Chakwera of trying to hoodwink Malawians that he is cracking down on culprits who misappropriated K6.2 billion Covid-19 response funds, faulting the decision to include in the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 representatives of Civil Society Organizations, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC).
DPP spokesperson on legal affairs Bright Msaka, who is also the party’s vice-president (Eastern Region), said in a statement that it is “most improper” for the President to compromise the ACB and the MHRC by including them on the Covid-19 Taskforce.
He said President Chakwera’s reasoning for the inclusion of governance bodies is “either faulty or outright suspicious.”
Msaka said: “It is obvious that the President wants to gag the two independent institutions. There is no way an oversight body, such as the ACB, should be placed in a situation where, if something should go wrong in the Covid Committee, the ACB would be investigating itself and arrest itself. It does not work like that.”
He continued: “We do not think that the President is being naive. We think the President is cleverly trying to create complete paralysis of the two independent institutions by stifling the kind of oversight intended in the Constitution and in the law.
“How can a referee be a player in the same game he is officiating? How can a person be expected to chase with the hounds, and at the same time run together with the hare. How can a judge participate in an enterprise over which he later has to adjudicate upon?”
Msaka said President Chakwera is “trying to hoodwink Malawians into believing that he is serious about getting to the bottom of the K6.2bn debacle.”
He said the inclusion of the ACB, and the Malawi Human Rights Commission in the Covid Committee is “a ruse “ intended to prevent the truth from coming out.
“Malawians will, however, not be deceived,” he warned.
But a private-practising lawyer Gift Nakhuni has differed with Msaka, saying there was nothing wrong with Chakwera including the two institutions in the taskforce.
He pointed out that ACB has a Corruption Prevention Department set up to deal with situations just like what the President talked about.
“If the officer or officers do not act according to their mandate it will be the officer(s) not the institution at fault. They will be the ones to be prosecuted and not the institution.
“Its sad that the Corruption Prevention Department of the ACB is not given the prominence it deserves. We are better off nipping corruption in the bud than letting it happen,” said Nankhuni.
It is transpiring that the K6.2 billion government released last August was abused by public servants by paying themselves unjustifiable allowances, failing to buy equipment meant to fight the pandemic and inflating prices of items sourced.
MHRC has since demanded prosecution of people that abused the Covid-19 funds.
“Where the audit finds that funds were abused in the expenditure of the K6.2 billion, the commission demands the expeditious prosecution of all culprits as per the laws of Malawi,” the commission’s executive secretary Habiba Osman said in a statement.
However, the commission strongly calls on government to expeditiously act on the questions and concerns that have arisen and continue to arise on the K6.2 billion government released for the Covid-19 fight.
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