While government has rejected the opposition-led motion to change the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) that sought to give the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) more teeth through independence from the Executive branch of government, Weekend Nation can confirm that the bureau has been pushing for the same amendments since 2013.
According minutes of a presentation to the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament made by the graft busting body’s top management during a lobbying meeting held at Sunbird Capital hotel in Lilongwe in 2013, the amendments ACB has been pushing for are identical to what is contained in the motion championed on Wednesday by the committee’s chairperson, Peter Chakwantha.
According to the presentation, titled Review of the Corrupt Practices Act Review Committee Report, the bureau constituted a committee to review the Act after noting some shortfalls in the implementation of some provisions since its last review in 2004.
The taskforce noted that there was need to open up competition for the position of Director General to ensure ACB’s independence.
The report recommends that powers of the President be trimmed to allow Parliament to nominate the person to be director or deputy director with the President only confirming the successful candidate.
Reads the proposed Section 5(1): “Nominations for appointment to the office of Director General shall be received from the public by way of a public advertisement placed by the Clerk to the National Assembly and the successful candidate shall be forwarded to the President by the Public Appointments Committee in accordance with the requirements of this section.
Section 5(2) reads: “The President shall appoint the Director General upon the recommendation of the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament after attending interviews. Section 5(3) says the terms and conditions of the Director General shall be determined by the President.”
In an envisaged Section 6(2) of the Act, the bureau also seeks to trim the powers of the President in removing its directors, again, giving powers to Parliament: “The person holding the office of Director General may be removed by the President upon recommendation of the Public Appointments Committee (PAC).
In an interview Samuel Tembenu refused to comment on the matter in the wake of the revelations, saying government has made its case in Parliament.yesterday, Minister of Justice
“I said what I needed to say yesterday (in Parliament). I don’t need to be repeating myself. ACB does not make laws in this country. They might have fine ideas on how they want to run their organisation, but we make the laws,” said Tembenu.
ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala said their proposed Bill was still with Ministry of Justice and the bureau was still optimistic it would go to Parliament in the near future.
“We are still waiting for the Ministry of Justice—if you look at the motion—it only touched on one amendment while our proposed Act makes a number of amendments. Our position as far as we are concerned is that the ministry is still working on the proposed new law,” said Ndala.
Apart from the removal and appointment of the directors, the bureau also wants to increase its threshold of cases it can prosecute, more powers to freeze or seize assets, more arrests without warrants from Judiciary, among others.
The motion by the opposition was shot down in the House after some independent MPs voted against it alongside government, a development the opposition described as sad in the fight against corruption.
“This is a sad day for this nation. We have been denied an opportunity to uproot corruption. Nonetheless, we are not defeated and must fight on. There is a need to change the minds on the part of those who campaigned to have separation of powers and are now behaving like chameleons shooting down the very things they vowed to do,” said MCP president and leader of opposition, Lazarus Chakwera. n