Three candidates , including Ombudsman Martha Chizuma, have made the final shortlist for consideration for the position of director general of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) which fell vacant in January.
Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo confirmed in an interview yesterday that he had received three names, but could not disclose the identity of the candidates, saying the list is meant for President Lazarus Chakwera in the meantime.
But sources confided that Chizuma, private practice lawyer Wellington Kazembe and retired Justice of Appeal Anthony Kamanga were shortlisted from a list of 10 candidates who attended interviews last weekend.
The 10 were picked out of 37 applicants, according to our sources. The others were Linda Mzumara, Felix Tandwe, Gerald Chigona, Chris Khunga, Fenwick Kamanga, Dan Mponda and Geoff Chikuta.
Following the shortlist, the three names will now be forwarded to the President to choose one candidate who will be subjected to confirmation by the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament.
Previously, ACB directors were appointed without going through interviews, but this time around candidates faced a panel drawn from various sectors of the society in line with the 2019 amendment to the Corrupt Practices Act.
Section 6 (A) of the amended Corrupt Practices Act says when there is a vacancy in the office of the director general of the ACB, the Minister of Justice advertises the position in the Gazette and at least two newspapers with widest circulation.
Reads in part the provision: “Upon receipt of the applications, the minister shall empanel a selection team of not more than seven people comprising representatives of the public sector, the private sector, faith organisations, traditional leadership, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the media.”
The selection panel included Paramount Chief Kyungu, Media Council of Malawi chairperson Wisdom Chimgwede, Kossam Munthali representing CSOs, Christopher Guta (private sector), Reyneck Matemba (public sector and immediate past ACB chief) and Dumisani Banda from the Department of Human Resource Management and Development. The Public Affairs Committee was invited to represent the faith community, but its appointed representative did not take part due to other commitments.
The shortlisted candidates are all respected legal minds with experience in the public service.
Kamanga has previously served as Law Commissioner, Solicitor General, Attorney General and in the Judiciary rose to the position of Justice of Appeal.
Kazembe, on the other hand, served as corporate secretary and director of administration for the Malawi Housing Corporation between 2008 and 2016.
Chizuma, who was among only two female candidates shortlisted for interviews, has previously served as a magistrate, assistant registrar of the High Court and Supreme Court of Appeal and deputy chairperson of the Industrial Relations Court before becoming the Ombudsman.
The Tonse Alliance leadership led by Chakwera has strongly spoken about fighting corruption and recently the ACB was awash with complaints from the public, especially the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) which has been running the whistle-blowing initiative.
In an interview yesterday, Happy Kayuni, professor of public administration at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said the new arrangement of recruiting the ACB director inspires confidence.
He said the graft-busting body needs strong leadership.
Kayuni said for ACB to tick, the leadership is everything; hence, the new head should be able to set the tone in terms of the direction they want to take to inspire confidence.
He said: “We need the ACB that is active all the time, not only when it is politically convenient. We need the ACB that will act when it is not politically convenient.”
HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said they expect the new ACB director to function independently and treat all complaints without looking at political affiliation.
“We want someone who is professional and independent of political interference, someone who can deliver without considering political affiliation,” he said.
The office of ACB director general fell vacant after Matemba indicated he would not renew his contract and has since been appointed Solicitor General.