* But curiously, the Bureau’s report does not include any of the names of those found in the 14 ledgers that contain this information
* This, in my view, points to another factor that drives corruption in this country
* Namely the selective pursuit of justice by the Bureau in its enforcement of the law
By Duncan Mlanjira
In his address to the nation this evening, President Lazarus Chakwera reveled that the investigations that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) found that beyond the 84 individuals who allegedly received money from high corruption suspect Zuneth Sattar in 2021, his associate also kept a record of all the persons who allegedly received kickbacks from from 2008 to 2020.
“But curiously, the Bureau’s report does not include any of the names of those found in the 14 ledgers that contain this information,’ said the President. “This, in my view, points to another factor that drives corruption in this country, namely the selective pursuit of justice by the Bureau in its enforcement of the law.
“If the Bureau has evidence that Mr. Sattar has been corrupting Government officials since 2008, and if I requested a report that would enable me to tell Malawians the full extent of the matter, I find it bizarre for the Bureau to leave out the names of those from the first 12 of the 13 years in which the corruption allegedly happened.
“That kind of selective justice is a clear signal to those who practiced corruption in the past that the seriousness of their crimes against Malawians are based not on the laws they broke or the harm they caused to this country, but on the whims of the Bureau, and that has to change.
“The Bureau has found that the information recorded in the 14 ledger books confiscated from Mr. Sattar’s associate includes donations to politicians from all major political parties in the country.”
This, Chakwera said, means that the ACB Director General, Martha Chizuma “was right when she recently said that another major factor that fuels corruption in the country is the advance capturing of political parties before they get into power, done by businesspersons whose donations may not have been declared to the Registrar of Parties in accordance with the Political Parties Act”.
“As such, my office will give the Registrar’s office any support it needs to investigate the political donations found in those ledger books, and to take appropriate action against the affected political parties for any undeclared donations.”
The President was not conclusive if “the question of whether this report should be made public”, saying “when I appealed to the ACB to furnish me with this report within three weeks, it was based on Section 4 of the Corrupt Practices Act, which states that the Bureau’s ‘Director shall submit reports to the President and to the Minister regarding the general conduct of the affairs of the Bureau’.
“However, upon reading the report, I learnt from the Bureau that they had also shared the report with the Chief Justice and the Speaker of Parliament.
“I find this decision by the Bureau irregular for four reasons. Firstly, because it dishonours the principle of separating the powers of the Executive Branch, to which the Bureau reports, from the powers of the Judiciary and the Legislature, which exist for different functions.
“Secondly, I find it irregular because I know of no law that authorizes the Bureau to submit reports to the heads of the Legislature or of the Judiciary for private use.
“Thirdly, I find it irregular because the Bureau already stated in the report that it cannot release the list of individuals implicated by the report to the public to avoid prejudicing people who may otherwise be innocent, and yet the same Bureau has already gone ahead to release the report to two other public offices that are not bound by law to keep it confidential.
“Fourthly, since the Bureau has said that it fears that reading the report may lead to prejudice, it should have avoided potentially prejudicing the Chief Justice most of all, considering that the cases under investigation will be tried before the Courts and may very well end up before the Chief Justice and the Supreme Court for independent appeals.
“Now, the ACB has said in the report that the reason it has released the report to the Chief Justice and the Speaker is to be accountable to the public and sustain its trust.
“But I fail to see how giving the report to two people for their private reading sustains public trust. If the Bureau is serious about sustaining public trust without prejudicing anyone against the individuals under investigation, the best would be to release a version of the report without the list of the names of those the Bureau has not finished investigating.
“If the Chief Justice and Speaker have the right to read the report without prejudice, then so do all Malawians. That is my view. But in the end, it is the Bureau’s decision.”
Chakwera said what he must decide, “as President, is what’s best for the country as you all expect me to and to demand of myself the highest standard to accomplish it, and I believe the measures I have outlined meet that standard”.
“And since Section 88 of the Constitution places on me the ultimate responsibility for the observance of the Constitution by the entire Executive Branch, it is right for me to demand higher standards of the Anti-Corruption Bureau as well.
“An investigation of this scope, of this seriousness, and of this sensitivity requires skilful hands and a cool head, to avoid rookie procedural and strategic mistakes that risk giving the corrupt cartels in our land a footing to obstruct and oppose every move we make to defeat them.
“The stakes are way too high for that. What Malawians deserve from the Bureau is substance that makes a difference in pursuit of justice, not just suspicion that makes the headlines.
“And towards that end, you can count on me to continue doing my part until this long battle is won,” he concluded.