Msaka: Leave the independent bodies independent
* The President’s reasoning for their inclusion is either faulty or outright suspicious
* 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?
By Duncan Mlanjira
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice-president for Eastern Region, Bright Msaka SC has faulted President Lazarus Chakwera’s inclusion of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ABC) and the Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) into the presidential task force on COVID-19 as well as in the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA).
Msaka — speaking as the DPP’s spokesperson on legal affairs — opines that it is most improper for the President to compromise the two independent institutions on the COVID-19 committee, saying the “reasoning for their inclusion is either faulty or outright suspicious”.
In his announcement to clear the rubble following the rampant fraud and mismanagement of K6.2 billion COVID-19 funds, President Chakwera said both DODMA and the COVID-19 Taskforce require strong leadership and thus the need to strengthen their vigilance by adding to it representatives of civil society organizations (CSOs), the ACB and MHRC.
But Msaka, Member of Parliament for Machinga Likwenu, believes 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. 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?
“It would seem the President is trying to hoodwink Malawians into believing that he is serious about getting to the bottom of the K6.2bn debacle. 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. Mr President, leave the independent bodies independent!”
During his national address on Sunday, Chakwera fired technical co-chairperson of presidential task force on COVID-19, Dr. John Phuka and the DODMA Commissioner for not taking action on the reg flags that were raised by the Ombudman in her report done in November over the K6.2 billion abuse.
Chakwera disclosed that thee two technical heads left the Ombudsman report unchecked by not channeling it directly to the President as they were supposed to have done.
Chakwera replaced Phuka with Dr. Chalamira Nkhoma while the new DODMA Commissioner will be named soon.
He also ordered the Secretary to the President and Cabinet to suspend — with immediate effect all cluster heads — “some for failing to maintain proper records of how such critical funds were used and others for defying my directive to submit reports weekly to my office”.
Chakwera’s strong resolve comes after expressing his outrage over the alleged abuse of COVID-19 funds and lack of financial accountability for the same by certain clusters entrusted with K6.2 billion for tackling the pandemic.
The abuses sparked public outrage on social media as well as official public condemnation from various CSOs, which asked the President to take a stern action and bring to book those found to have been involved in the massive plunder and fraud.