The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) says it is examining queries from a private citizen who has questioned the source of funding 44 new vehicles he claims UTM Party has allegedly acquired through Khwesi Msusa, a contractor and an alleged sympathiser of the party.
ACB Director General Martha Chizuma said in an interview that the bureau is currently screening two complaints from one individual regarding UTM vehicles.
The move by the graft-busting body comes amid calls for a broader probe into an alleged procurement of 200 vehicles by UTM Party. UTM has only confirmed that it had bought just 11 vehicles for its legislators.
Concerned citizen, Gosten Chinseu, earlier wrote ACB on the matter, has, again, asked the bureau to probe the issue.
He claimed in his complaint to ACB: “To put things into perspective, Mr Msusa is a very senior UTM Party member who has been part of (Vice President) Saulos Chilima’s campaign team, both [ahead of the] 2019 and 2020 elections. To this day, he still remains in the Vice-President’s inner circle.
“What makes this matter even [more serious] is that Mr Msusa is not employed and does not earn amounts of money proportional to the [cost of the] 44 vehicles. As an interested citizen, I believe the purchase of the vehicles and the strong bond between the two is not mere coincidence.”
Chinseu asked the ACB to look into the matter and reach a conclusion.
He argues that the bureau must remember that the democratic dispensation in which Malawi is operating calls for absolute transparency and accountability on how political parties get their funding.
Chinseu said it is in the spirit of this democratic requirement that Parliament enacted the Political Parties Act, which calls for audited financial accounts for all parties that have a one tenth threshold in Parliament.
“Funding to political parties is in line with Section 40 (2) of the Constitution and should, therefore, form part of a political culture as a country without compromise,” he said.
But when contacted, Msusa: “The matter is in the hands of the ACB, and let us wait for them to do their work and they will let us know.”
And in a brief WhatsApp interview, Chilima said UTM Party spokesperson Frank Mwenifumbo was better placed to comment on the matter.
But when contacted, Mwenifumbo said: “We have the ACB looking into the matter and we would want to leave it up to them. We believe in the independence of the ACB, and we want it to do its work.”
In an interview, ACB director general Martha Chizuma said they received a new query and they are screening both inquiries.
“I can confirm that we have received two queries and have combined them. We are screening the queries,” she said.
Last year, UTM Party’s partner in the nine-party Tonse Alliance, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), was also at pains to explain the procurement of eight Toyota Hilux pickups and a bus, saying the fleet was bought with proceeds from the sale of its land at the Lilongwe Game Complex.
The acquisition of the vehicles by MCP had raised questions on the party’s source of funding with the social media awash with speculations that the party bought 50 vehicles to distribute to its structures in the country.
In July last year, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) started a process for parties to disclose their sources of funding.
MLS asked the Registrar of Political Parties to disclose sources and amounts of money four major political parties received between January 1 2019 and December 31 2020.
In a letter dated July 20 2021, MLS demanded a report from the registrar on the state of the parties’ compliance under Political Parties Act, but no party has publicly declared its sources of funding to date.
During International Anti-Corruption Day commemoration in Mzuzu last December, Chizuma took a swipe at political parties, both in opposition and government, over what she described as “their insatiable appetite for kickbacks”.
She said political parties are prone to corruption because that is their main means of funding their operations, observing that most political parties do not have financing strategies. As such, they seek kickbacks from contracts which perpetuate corruption in the country.
Said Chizuma: “It is lack of integrity in almost all our governing political parties who, after almost three decades of multiparty democracy, have still not figured out legitimate ways of funding their parties.
“[They] have consistently sacrificed public services and goods meant for the people they are governing at the altar of questionable multi-billion kwacha contracts to unscrupulous businesspeople for kickbacks as a way of funding their parties to purchase party T-shirts and cloths as if that is all Malawians are entitled to.”
The Political Parties Act of 2018, among others, compels political parties to disclose to the Registrar of Political Parties sources of their funding and any donations.