LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-The country’s renown human rights activist Undule Mwakasungula continues to rebuke embattled Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Martha Chizuma’s selective prosecution of some cases.

In a press statement made available to The Maravi Post on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 expressed worrisome on how ACB leadership lacks strategic direction.

Undele trashes Chizuma

Mwakasungula observes that ACB leadership accepted that the responsibilities are too huge to handle.

“I am one of those who very much supported for the ACB Director appointment but I am short of words to say I have been disappointed months down the line with the slow pace of cases, selective prosecution of the cases, lack of strategic direction and leadership of ACB hence making it very difficult to still continuing having confidence in her.

“I believe it is time that the ACB leadership accepted that the responsibilities are too huge to handle. May be its time to pave way for others or for the appointing authority to decide otherwise for the good of the fight against corruption in Malawi. Moving in circles with the business as usual approach is a disaster in this fight against corruption,” observes Mwakasungula.

Below is Mwakasungula’s full statement on current ACB status:

Progress and Way forward on Malawi’s fight against corruption

Malawi has registered progress in the fight against corruption and this is a positive sign of commitment from the leadership and government.  The Presidential assent to the Corrupt Practices (Amendment) Act weeks ago is a major milestone in the fight against corruption. This gives all stakeholders the opportunity on the need to take a deep reflection on how to contribute towards the success of the cause.

Part of that reflection could be a candid discussion amongst on how Malawi has fared in the past and how we intend to re-route our efforts with the new legal instruments put in place.

The coming in of the new law is a very welcome development as it will add value to the fight against corruption.  However, on the other hand it will take more than a good law to achieve desirable results.

Firstly, we must appreciate that the new law was advocated for as a remedy to slow progress in handling cases by the Anti Corruption Bureau. The advocacy on the other hand was birthed at the back of goodwill towards the current ACB Director General, Martha Chizuma, who people thought needs more freedom to initiate prosecutorial processes independently.

Notwithstanding that the new law is a plus to the cause, it is worrisome to note that as a nation we needed a new law to address mistrust and misunderstanding between/among state agencies that are mandated to coordinate in the fight against corruption.

This is also taking into views of some renowned legal experts who also pointed out the errors that were made in thinking that a new law is enough to fight corruption and address all the limitation on ACB in prosecuting cases.  

Martha Chizuma falls at ACB

Further to the new law, Malawians have however somehow noted the ACB Director General displaying both moral and professional inefficiencies which might be affecting the operations of the institution not limited to the ones as outlined below;

  1. Since she assumed office 18 months ago, the ACB Director General has somehow seemed to have spent more time in the media limelight instead of focusing on the core duties. Time and again we have noted a galvanized army of social media advocates who push media agenda even when it was not necessary. This conduct many feels has compromised the efforts and impact of the ACB.
  2. The ACB Director General has also courted negative publicity for moral and unprofessional reasons when early this year appeared in a leaked phone call. In that call divulging sensitive operational information was heard and shared to someone who is not sanctioned by law to access the same much to disappointment of many who supported and had confidence in her as a professional.
  3. In relation to reasons that facilitated the passing and assenting of the Corrupt Practices (Amendment) Act, the ACB Director General seemed to demonstrate lack of teamwork with other state agencies. The ACB lone approach in dealing with prosecution of cases has been making Malawians point a finger at the Judiciary, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Attorney General and Minister of Justice, probably over issues that are straight forward for the sake of speeding up prosecuting cases. In this what is needed is for the ACB Director General and ACB to create synergies or understand the advice offered by other actors in the fight against corruption guided by the Legal Enforcement Coordination Strategy.

Further this is in inclusion of other key stakeholders such as the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), Malawi Police Service (Fiscal Police) and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) among others who seem to have been less or not at all consulted.  We can not win the fight against corruption when ACB is working in isolation.  

Way forward

It is clear that the new Corrupt Practices (Amendment) Bill has come at the right time but the nation still has outstanding issues to address within the ACB.

The new law may not be implemented effectively with lack of strategic focus by the ACB and maybe some personality and conduct of the leadership.  

Implementing a new law in the midst of lack of strategic focus and direction, all this unprofessional conduct is a dangerous path in the fight against corruption.  

What needs to be done urgently

Where Malawi stands right now it will only be right and proper to allow the new Corrupt Practices (Amendment) Bill be implemented in an environment that is conducive for success. Unfortunately, it is worrisome that this point in time the ACB and its leadership seem to be moving in circles and signing the same old songs.   

Malawians need to see progress at ACB in terms of movements of the cases and not to hear media briefings or unnecessary excuses.  With the new law the ACB leadership cannot excuses anymore to give to Malawians. Failure to deliver with the new law in place will give many Malawians further questions in terms of inefficiency of the ACB leadership and institution as a whole.

I am one of those who very much supported for the ACB Director appointment but I am short of words to say I have been disappointed months down the line with the slow pace of cases, selective prosecution of the cases, lack of strategic direction and leadership of ACB hence making it very difficult to still continuing having confidence in her. I believe it is time that the ACB leadership accepted that the responsibilities are too huge to handle. May be its time to pave way for others or for the appointing authority to decide otherwise for the good of the fight against corruption in Malawi. Moving in circles with the business as usual approach is a disaster in this fight against corruption.

May the Lord help us as we strive collectively to make Malawi free from corruption.

Signed by Undule Mwakasungula, Governance and Human Rights Defender.

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