Malawi: Corruption Alleged in Committee Vote On Anti-Graft Chief

Corruption

Blantyre — Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said Wednesday that efforts to fight corruption would be delayed because a parliamentary panel rejected his choice to head the country's Anti-Corruption Bureau.

Addressing Parliament, Chakwera said he was dismayed and disappointed by the committee's rejection of his nominee, Martha Chizuma, a day earlier.

"Not only does this decision deny Malawians the services of a strong warrior, but it also delays our plan to empower the ACB to recruit additional prosecutors and implement the National Anti-Corruption Strategy II of 2019-2024," he said.

The Public Appointments Committee of Parliament said Tuesday that Chizuma failed to get the scores required for confirmation.

Half of the lawmakers on the committee gave her low marks after an assessment interview. The aggregated results showed Chizuma with just 15 points out of a possible 25, below the minimum pass figure of 17.

Chakwera called on lawmakers to, in his words, put political and personal interests aside and do their part in accelerating the change Malawians have sought.

Since he won the presidency a year ago, Chakwera has conducted an anti-corruption campaign in which several key figures, including the security aide to former President Peter Mutharika, have been arrested.

'Iron lady'

Chakwera said he believed the appointment of Chizuma, known as the "iron lady," would advance that goal. Chizuma, who is Malawi's ombudsman, removed five top officials from posts at Malawi's communications regulator, saying they had been illegally employed during the former Mutharika administration.

Lawmaker Ashems Christopher Songwe, who belongs to Chakwera's Malawi Congress Party, said Wednesday that there were allegations that opposition lawmakers were unduly influenced to reject Chizuma. Local media reports said one allegation was that opposition lawmakers pocketed money from corrupt business persons to vote against her.

Lawmaker Shadreck Namalomba of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, or DPP, the former ruling party, denied the accusation and said some pro-government lawmakers voted against the nominee as well.

"It is actually that side that is against appointment of Martha Chizuma," Namalomba said. "DPP members in the Public Appointments Committee are only five. The rest are from that side. I would want Malawians to know that what we are doing today is being orchestrated by that side over there."

Political analyst Vincent Kondowe said that by rejecting Chizuma, the lawmakers had not committed any mistakes.

"For me, whatever has transpired is the failure of President Chakwera and his strategists to lobby and gain consensus of the Public Appointments Committee to confirm Martha Chizuma," he said.

In the meantime, Parliament has passed a motion directing the Public Appointments Committee to submit a detailed report to the House by next Tuesday on why it turned down Chizuma.

Legal experts said that if the decision stood, the president would either resubmit Chizuma's name or announce a new nominee.

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