Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Martha Chizuma says the graft-busting agency will this year move to have some cases concluded as well as prioritising lifestyle audits and assets recovery.
In an exclusive interview on Monday during her first eight months in office and plans for the New Year 2022, efforts of the bureau to fighting corruption due to high levels of the vice.
She described her eight months at ACB as a mixed bag as there were both interesting and challenging experiences.
Chizuma said in a written response: “I believe in the past eight months we have done pretty well at the bureau. Yes, we could have done better, but we tried in pushing through a number of investigations, court cases.
“There were also a number of corruption prevention and anti-corruption education activities.
“I think in terms of challenges, it’s what I have been talking about all along that the corruption prevalence is so high such that it’s not easy to see the impact being felt out of all efforts you put in. That can be frustrating. But we continue soldiering on.”
She said every day she goes to work to ensure that the bureau’s efforts contribute to steering Malawi in the right direction in as far as corruption fight is concerned.
“The plan is to continue at the same pace. But we also hope that in 2022 we will institute lifestyle audits and also intensify assets recovery,” Chizuma said.
In his assessment, governance and social commentator Humphrey Mvula said Chizuma and her team have performed well in the past year.
He said the ACB boss demonstrated determination to fight corruption in the country.
Mvula noted that the major challenge is lack of capacity at the bureau and other agencies in the justice system such as courts.
He said: “There is going to be a greater need to support her [Chizuma] politically because corruption is a domain of people that have a lot of political powers and resources. It will fight back. So you need her to be supported.”
Chizuma joined the ACB last June after excelling in selection interviews. Previously she worked as the Ombudsman where the Office of the Ombudsman made several landmark declarations during her tenure.
She became the first woman to head the ACB.
Notable high profile cases the ACB handled under Chizuma in the past year include that of businessperson Abdul Karim Batatawala’s alleged conspiracy to defraud the Malawi Government through a contract with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services.
The bureau also arrested former minister of Energy Newton Kambala alongside former presidential adviser Chris Chaima Banda and Alliance for Democracy president Enock Chihana in connection with the fuel importation deals at the National Oil Company of Malawi.
Last week, the bureau also arrested Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa for his alleged role in the land sale transactions to businessperson Zuneth Sattar through his partner Ashok Kumar Sreedharan also known as Ashok Nair. The High Court of Malawi later suspended the arrest of the minister after an expartes hearing. The bureau said it would challenge the decision.
Findings by Transparency International (TI) in its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2020 show that corruption continued to worsen in Malawi as it ranked 129 out of 180 countries after scoring just 30 points.
The score reflected a continued downward spiral as the country scored 32 points in 2018 and was on position 120 before moving backward to 31 points in 2019 with a ranking of 123rd.
The CPI ranks countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption.
In the 2020 Mo Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), Malawi scored a meagre 34.3 percent on gvernance, deteriorating with-6.5 points owing to lack of serious anti-corruption mechanisms, graft in State and public, and private sector institutions.
The country has of late seen many instances of flouted public procurement procedures, which is also a concern in the IIAG report. As for the CPI, Malawi performed well in 2015 when it occupied position 112, but slipped to 120 in 2016, then 122 in 2017, moved up to 120 in 2018 before plunging to 123 in 2019.
In December 2020, the European Union rebuffed the Malawi Government’s plea for resumption of direct budget support, saying it is concerned with corruption and poor public finance management structures. During the campaign for the June 23 2020 court-ordered fresh presidential election, Chakwera and his team campaigned on the platform of fighting corruption in the country. Chakwera and his running mate now Vice-President Saulos Chilima received 58 percent approval from voters.