By Duncan Mlanjira
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has accepted an offer from concerned citizen, Paulaw Kitheka that he has a monitoring tool HRDC can use to keep track of all the fraud, theft and corruption cases it has been aggressively alerting the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to act on.
It all started when Chandiwira Chisi posted on Face that he appreciates the way HRDC is maintaining its relevance through aggressive whistle blowing.
“Perhaps, what remains is to put up a monitoring mechanism on stalled cases both in courts and at ACB and application of pressure,” Chisi said.
To which Kitheka responded that he has such a monitoring tool and when HRDC’s MacDonald Sembereka responded that he was interested, Kitheka said they have adaptable tools that can operate online or on desktop, where data sensitivities exist.
“We can talk about this some more this coming week. Our work is focused on Data4Decision; whose sole motivation is to improve management through data driven decisions. Let us make time this new week,” he said.
The post attracted positive responses with Timothy Chavula saying more effort must be directed at preventing fraud and corruption from taking place other than to whistleblow after money has already been stolen.
Emmanuel Munthali responded: “Of course, prevention is the best but in our case it has to be the other way round. We are coming from a period where plunder was order of the day.”
Marcel Chisi applauded HRDC, saying it has added more vigor and has moved the accountability game up with Sparrows Nest also agreeing, saying: “I like the whistleblowing approach rather than the street demonstration one. They now need to put a very strong M&E team to follow up on those issues and to take to task those sitting on the issues, be it courts, police, the perpetrators of the offence, etc.”
The recent case that HRDC has brought to the fore is on the allegations of abuse of office at Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) that the water utility company paid close to K29.3 to Gaston Arts for construction of sculptures at Parliament and Capital Hotel roundabouts.
HRDC says it is alleged that these sculptures were constructed on behalf of Beautify Malawi (BEAM) Trust, a charity run by the former First Lady, Gertrude Mutharika.
“These payments were done under ‘corporate social responsibility’. We are of the view that this was an abuse of office.
“LWB should not have been involved in construction of sculptures, they were better off constructing a school block or clinic within their catchment area.”
It is reported that LWB made an upfront payment of 60% to Gaston Arts yet normal upfront payments, generally, do not exceed 20%.
HRDC also took LWB and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to court because LWB paid MK10 million as sponsorship of the party’s fundraising activity called blue night.
HRDC also reveals that is has received allegations that LWB had on its payroll President Mutharika’s stepson, Tadikira, whose name was reflected in the engineering section.
“It is alleged that despite being paid by LWB, Tadikira never reported for duties. It is also alleged that his name was also appearing on the payroll of the Roads Authority.
“We appeal to the ACB to carry out investigations into this matter urgently. Apart for the investigations, HRDC is also asking for the money to be paid back,” says HRDC.
Early this month HRDC wrote the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mary Kachale to expedite the prosecution of high-profile politicians, senior public officers and business people, who were arrested for allegedly committing various corruption cases.
Copied to the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, the letter said since July 2020, there have been a large number of high profile arrests of people who were holding high posts in the previous administration by both the ACB and Malawi Police Service.
“These arrests include politicians, senior public officers and business people,” says the letter dated October 8. “However, up to date, we have not seen prosecution of any of these.
“For example, the Supreme Court recently released Mr. Norman Paulos Chisale, inter alia, because he is yet to be charged in a court of law. We can cite other examples like Collins Magalasi, Peter Mukhitho, Roza Mbilizi, Godfrey Itaye and many others.
“HRDC is concerned with the current state of affairs. The questions we ask are: whether the arrests were without merit? Whether some suspects are being shielded by the so called “system”? Whether our law enforcement agencies have requisite expertise to professionally prosecute such high profile cases?”
Other cases HRDC has whistle blown include some from Ministry of Lands and also the Ministry of Health awarding contract to a Zambian firm Grandview International to provide ambulances at exorbitant prices yet Toyota Malawi quoted at a cheaper price at less than US$25,000 and offered 2 years of free service of the vehicles.
Other civil society organisations also sent a petition to Speaker of Parliament, Catherine Gotani Hara to summon the ACB Director Reyneck Matemba to clarify on certain matters of national importance that are related to corruption and Sind out their progress.
In the petition, the CSO leaders also wanted Matemba to clarify the ACB’s position of Chunara’s case in the cement corruption saga.