12 July 2018

Malawi: Analysts Further Weigh in On Leaked Malawi Police Food Scandal Report

Governance expert and a social commentator have faulted the country's graft busting body-- Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) -- of focusing in investigating the source of leaked document summarizing serious fraud and corruption involving the police, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and a businessman Zameer Karim instead of focusing on prosecuting suspected wrong doers in the matter.

ACB said it has hired a South African expert with a lie detector to investigate who leaked the document, among many that have found its way out from the bureau.

However, governance expert Makhumbo Munthali said the actions of ACB indicate that they are facing extreme pressure from the corridors of power.

"The whole saga only points to the possibility that ACB is under undue pressure from an underlying executive hand who are too bitter at the revelation of this leaked report," Munthali told Nyasa Times

"However, one wonders how ACB sets its priorities. While it is important for the Bureau to know the identity of the one who leaked the so-called 'preliminary report' just for professional purposes, it defies logic and common sense for the Bureau to prioritise that at the expense of conclusion into the investigations into this police gate where the President is allegedly implicated," he said.

According to the governance expert, by calling for an external investigator over the leaked document the Bureau is indirectly communicating to the public that what it had labelled as a preliminary report may in fact be a final report hence the anger and bitterness against the "leaker" of the dossier.

"ACB report raises ethical dilemma. While on one hand it is true that releasing a public document prematurely or that which is not supposed to release may be illegal and that whoever does that must face serious disciplinary sanctions, on the other hand releasing information which would be in the public interest may be justifiable," he said.

"If the motive of the person who leaked the ACB report was right after realising that by virtue of implicating the President the report would not be acted on by the Bureau in consultation with the Director of Public Prosecution, then the leaker would be ethically justified despite contravening the Law or the oath he or she swore.

"Even if the leaker of the report had bad motives of leaking the report after realising it had implicated the President hence wanting to embarass him, as long as the leaked report is true and in the public interest in as far as holding the President accountable is concerned then that person may be justifiable too ethically despite contravening his or her oath," he added.

Taking it to social media, Idriss Ali Nassah a fierce social and political commentator, said whoever advised the ACB to hire South Africans to investigate the leak into the matter where Mutharika and his DPP were beneficiaries of a dirty deal of food rations at the Malawi Police Service, is smart.

"By this very action three things are bound to happen: The matter of the K145 million will not die. President Peter Mutharika's name will keep being mentioned in connection with this brazen theft of public money.

" Knowing fully well that public outrage is not about who leaked the report but about who stole the money, this move to investigate the leak is designed to further outrage Malawians.

"The South Africans' investigation into the leak will ultimately be 'inconclusive' but that is yet another way to keep the story alive and in the public domain," he pointed out.

A constitutional law commentator Professor Danwood Chirwa has said that given the case implicates the highest office, ACB director's "obfuscation" must be seen as ploy to escape from personal political pressure, which the office must never experience in any case.

"We know that the ACB has compiled many dockets detailing corrupts deeds of many very senior politicians but it has not prosecuted them due to political interference. This is not what the ACB was set up to do. It's a waste of resources to investigate cases and never to prosecute. It must be independent and prosecute cases without fear or favour," he said.

Chirwa has said the leak must be welcomed for the reason that the case was not going to be brought to court.

"Now at least people know how their country is being plundered. Not that this is surprising. But knowing that there is evidence for the suspicions people have is edifying and gives hope that there could be some accountability, political or legal," he said.

The legal expert recommended that ACB must arrest those implicated who have no immunity - Karim and Malawi Police director of finance Innocent Bottoman - without delay and parliament must institute impeachment proceedings against the President.

Vice-President Saulos Chilima has called for the amendment of a constitutional provision that shields a sitting President from criminal prosecution, saying it gives the presidency licence to commit corrupt crimes.

A leaked ACB investigation report showed that DPP received K145 million from a supplier through a Standard Bank account whose sole signatory is Mutharika.

Initially, the presidency dismissed the matter as "fake news" but State House later confirmed the transaction and the account, but said there was nothing sinister as it was a donation from a well-wisher.

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