The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has dropped an investigation into former Malawi vice-president Khumbo Kachali, a decision that has led him to accuse the bureau of being used by politicians in government to victimise their rivals in the opposition.
ACB questioned Kachali in May this year soon after he endorsed the candidature of President Peter Mutharika when Kachali fell out of favour with Joyce Banda’s People’s Party (PP).
At the time, deputy ACB director Reyneck Matemba told our sister paper The Nation that the bureau requested to meet Kachali in “ongoing investigations” into the loss of billions of kwacha from government coffers.
But in an email response this week, ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala, while confirming that the bureau had placed Kachali under investigation, said the probe was not Cashgate-related.
“There was a case, unrelated to Cashgate which the bureau was investigating. In the course of that investigation, it became necessary for the bureau to invite the then vice-president to clarify some issues in relation to that case,” said Ndala.
Kachali, in an interview on Thursday, described his questioning and the allegations as political.
He, however, welcomed the decision to drop the investigation.
“I am yet to be informed by the ACB on the development. I am still waiting for their update, but during the discussion with ACB one could see that it was clear they had been sent by the [PP] administration to intimidate me because I had endorsed Professor Mutharika. I would like to urge the ACB to try to be apolitical. I was asked on phone calls I allegedly made to police and Treasury to ask them to make some payments, but I don’t want to discuss the matter now,” said Kachali.
While sitting in the opposition at the heart of the Cashgate through which billions of taxpayers’ money were siphoned from Treasury, the now ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) earlier claimed it had evidence of Kachali’s involvement in the scam.
The then DPP leader in the House George Chaponda submitted to Parliament what he termed evidence of the involvement, listing several companies whose contracts the party said were dubious and used to siphon government funds and he specifically linked Kachali to a company named Cross Marketing Limited.
Chaponda said the party had information that Kachali siphoned government funds amounting to K86.5 million through cheque number 028531 and K28 million through cheque number 028532.
Ndala, however, said the bureau did not receive any information from DPP.
“Because of [what we have said above] there is no investigation going on in that regard [DPP] has not submitted any evidence to the bureau.
Quizzed on DPP allegations in Parliament, Kachali said “Parliament is a House of politics”.
He claimed the DPP leadership made the allegation deliberately without evidence due to parliamentary immunity.
But Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education, Kondwani Nankhumwa, who also doubles as DPP spokesperson, said the party never possessed any evidence and that Chaponda spoke in an individual capacity.
“I have failed to verify with the minister [Chaponda who is USA] on the matter, but as a party we never had any evidence. I can’t be in a position to shed more light until the minister who addressed Parliament returns,” said Nankhumwa.
Chaponda had insisted in Parliament that the party had substantial evidence against Kachali and other senior PP members.
“…Mr. Speaker sir, there is another fraudulent company which is on the list of conduits being used to steal taxpayers’ money to finance the People’s Party campaign. Millions of kwacha have also gone down the drain using this bogus entity, we wish to ask the Vice-President to come out clear if he himself is not connected to this company,” alleged Chaponda.
He further added: “Top PP leadership has identified and even created companies which are being sued to siphon funds for work that will never be done. Some of the companies have PP leaders as signatories or part owners. Mr. Speaker sir, I am willing to substantiate my revelations because I believe ordinary Malawians, poor people must know how this corruption is a master plan of this administration.”
Shortly before the May 20 elections, Kachali endorsed then opposition DPP presidential candidate Peter Mutharika after himself was overlooked as presidential running mate by People’s Party and then State president Joyce Banda.
He was later questioned by the ACB on what the graft-busting bureau said was a Cashgate investigation, but since then no information on the matter was forthcoming.
Reacting to the development, Civil Society Grand Coalition spokesperson Lucky Mbewe said ACB has become a tool for witch-hunting for successive administrations.
“The challenge we have seen to date is each new government put people at ACB who will carry out their interests and ACB is hence used to carry out political vendetta. It is used to silence people based on the political situation yet Malawians, the taxpayers, have high aspirations for a professional body which can effectively fight corruption,” said Mbewe.
Over K13 billion was lost through the Cashgate which shocked the nation and donors leading to freezing of part of donor aid, especially crucial budgetary support by majority Western donors.