Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Reyneck Matemba yesterday said leading the bureau is ‘hell’ and told off critics to follow procedures if they want him out of office.
Matemba—who said he is ready to leave what he hinted to be a thankless job—also said he was prepared to investigate the five-car donation to President Peter Mutharika by businessperson Zameer Karim of Pioneer Investments, but stressed that he will not be pushed around.
He explained that the issue of the donation of motor vehicles to the President was new to the bureau, but should investigations establish a connection between the K2.7 billion Malawi Police Service (MPS) food rations contract and the donation of the motor vehicles, the matter would be pursued.
The donation of vehicles—first revealed by our sister paper Weekend Nation on Saturday—comes barely months after a leaked ACB investigation report showed that Karim deposited K145 million into a governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) account at Standard Bank whose sole signatory is President Mutharika.
The deposit came within days of Pioneer getting paid K2.7 billion in a deal whose contract price was dubiously inflated by 20 percent; was financed by a tax-payer guaranteed loan that could fall on government shoulders since Pioneer is struggling to service it and is fraught with allegations of insider dealing and suspected fraud.
But in August, ACB cleared Mutharika on the K145 million, saying he did not personally benefit from the money—a narrative that State House pursued immediately the matter came to light.
Said Matemba yesterday: “If it [the vehicles donation] will be a connection that will be corrupt in nature, there is absolutely nothing that will stop the ACB from pursuing that matter.
“Please be informed that the cases that the ACB takes to court for prosecution are guided by evidence and not speculation or the will of [human rights defenders Timothy] Mtambo and [Gift] Trapence.”
He was reacting to calls by civil society organisation (CSOs) under the banner of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) for Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to probe revelations that Karim donated five vehicles to Mutharika.
In a statement yesterday, Mtambo and Trapence, as HRDC chairperson and vice-chairperson, respectively, alleged that Matemba had failed to inspire confidence in dealing with corruption; hence, their appeal to the parliamentary committee to intervene.
Reads the statement: “It is an understatement to say ACB is toothless on the matter; the HRDC now believes ACB is an accomplice in corruption involving the President and the ruling party zealots in the country.”
But Matemba said he has on several occasions told Mtambo and Trapence to follow procedures if they want him removed from office.
He said: “I have said this on more than five occasions and I am beginning to question these two individuals’ [Mtambo and Trapence] sense of hearing and level of understanding. I will repeat what I have said before: Let Mtambo and Trapence follow the right procedures for my removal, I will gladly leave.”
Matemba claimed he was not clinging to the position, saying: “It is hell to be director general of ACB.”
Rumphi East legislator Kamlepo Kalua, who is vice-chairperson of Parliament’s PAC, yesterday said his committee was ready to probe the alleged corruption, but lacks resources.
Governance analyst Henry Chingaipe doubted whether PAC has the mandate to execute the task it is being asked to.
“It doesn’t really quickly appear to me that PAC has enough mandate in its rules to probe the exchange of money or vehicles between the President and Karim. The mandate is public money, so the probe has to start from the food deal…”
He also wondered: “When we now start asking that PAC has to probe these issues, are we saying we have accepted that ACB is no longer helpful and we can make it a fact that we have to live with? Why should we keep it then? Or, what can we do to help ACB rise to the occasion?”
The five vehicles that Karim donated to Mutharika are valued at K17 million each, bringing the total amount to K85 million.
Records at the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services show that all the vehicles have Mutharika as title-holder.