Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee for more ACB independence, away with DPP consent

The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament says that section 42 of the Corrupt Practices Act, which provides that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) obtains consent to prosecute corruption cases from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is an unnecessary hurdle and interferes with the independence of the ACB.

The Committee will, therefore, move a Private Member’s Motion seeking leave of the House to bring a Private Member’s Bill on the matter concerning the granting of consent to the ACB by the DPP under the CPA, according to a press statement issued on Wednesday, February 16, 2022 and signed by the committee Chair, Peter Dimba.

Dimba: To tabled a Private Members Bill

The Legal Affairs Committee issued the press statement under Standing Order 187 (2) of the House in reference to the recent decision by the DPP to deny the ACB consent to prosecute a businessman of Asian origin, Ashok Nair, who is implicated in a high-profile corruption scandal.

“The ACB has been investigating various allegations concerning Mr. Zuneth Sattar and his alleged agent Mr. Ashok Nair. One of such investigations led to the arrest of Ashok Nair on the 30th of December, 2021.

“Pursuant to section 42 (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA), the ACB required the written consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) before commencing prosecution against Mr. Ashok Nair,” reads the statement in part.

The Legal Affairs Committee had interface meetings at Parliament with the DPP on February 2, 2022 and the ACB Director General on February 16, 2022. According to the statement, through these meetings, the Committee established that the ACB wrote the DPP seeking consent to prosecute Ashok Nair, and that this consent was not granted.

“In his explanation to the Committee, the DPP stated that he required further information from the ACB before making a decision on whether or not to grant consent. The DPP thus stated that he had pended his decision awaiting the requested information from the ACB.

“The Committee noted, however, that the response from the DPP to the ACB requiring this further information was made after the High Court had already granted leave for Judicial Review of the ACB’s decision to arrest Ashok Nair and had further stayed Mr. Nair’s arrest.

“The Committee further noted that even if the Court had not stayed his arrest, Ashok Nair would have still been released from custody by operation of the law (Section 42(4) of the CPA since consent to prosecute was not granted within fourteen days from the 31st December, 2021 when Mr. Nair was charged with offences under the CPA,” reads the statement made available to Nyasa Times on Thursday, February 17, 2022.

It says having listened to both the DPP and the ACB Director General and having further appreciated the circumstances concerning the granting of consent in the Ashok Nair case and other cases which the Bureau is handling, the Committee has decided to move Parliament to amend the legislation regarding seeking of consent to prosecute.

Other challenges

According to the statement, the Committee further noted the various challenges, which the ACB is experiencing including erratic funding of cash flow due to IFMIS and inadequate security to its officers.

The Committee will during on-going Budget Meeting of Parliament, make the necessary submissions for more funding to be given to ACB, it says.

“Finally, The Legal Affairs Committee is calling upon all stakeholders to unite in the fight against corruption,” the press statement concludes.

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