The High Court in Malawiâ€™s northern city of Mzuzu has acquitted former Likoma district commissioner (DC) Laiford Mgunda on corruption charges.
Mgunda was challenging his conviction by Nkhata Bay Magistrateâ€™s Court which fined him K120 000 (about $400) or in default to serve 12 months imprisonment with hard labour.
He was accused of giving relief items meant for the 2004 rainstorm victims to a relation.
The fact of the matter states that there was a surplus of development materials such as cement and iron sheets, which Mgunda directed to be given to the victims on loan.
On October 24 2005, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) received complaints that the DC was abusing his office by giving out government properties to individuals;hence, his arrest.
ACB claimed that the DC abused his powers by giving out iron sheets to Grace Minika.
But Mgunda told the court that Minika was one of the people affected by the disaster and that she applied for a loan through the director of development and planning (DPD) as stipulated by Section 40(1) (a) (b) of the Local Government Act.
Judge Dingiswayo Madise ruled that the DC did nothing wrong by loaning out government materials.
“I find that by loaning out government materials, the appellant [DC] was within the ambit of the law with Section 40 (1) (b) of Local Government Act which expressly empowers the assembly to make grants or loans to other persons or bodies on condition determined by the assembly in respect of any such action taken by those persons and bodies,” said Madise.
On claims that Minika was the DCâ€™s girlfriend, the judge said as long as she was a disaster victim and that she followed procedures in getting the loan, there was no problem.
“Was the appellant supposed to refuse to assist Grace Minika, a victim of the disaster on the mere premises that she was his lover? Did the appellant process Graceâ€™s loan himself? The answer is in the negative,” said the judge.