President Peter Mutharika has dismissed accusations that his government is practising selective investigations and prosecutions of fraud and corruption cases, saying there are independent institutions responsible for that.
Mutharika made the remarks at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre yesterday when he had an audience with a delegation from taxpayer-funded Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) comprising commissioners, executive secretary and deputy executive secretary.
Commenting on contents of a report which the commission presented to him, the President said prosecution is the work of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) which work independently.
“These institutions conduct prosecutions according to their own investigations and evidence gathered. I have always said that if you know people who are involved or are doing corruption, for example the seven ministers, give me the names, I will deal with them and also bring evidence to ACB and the DPP to allow them conduct their works,” said Mutharika.
But Chancellor College political analyst Mustapha Hussein, while agreeing that ACB and the DPP are responsible for investigations and prosecutions using policy frameworks such as the Corrupt Practices Act and the Money Laundering Act, said political influence cannot be entirely ruled out.
“However, that is in principle, but in practice there are perceptions that there is political influence. Political leaders or political office-bearers try to influence what happens in these institutions.
“For example, the key issue that has been in the limelight is the appointment of the director of ACB which the President does and [people] would like Parliament to be responsible for that,” said Hussein.
Commenting on the issue, Malawi Law Society (MLS) president John Suzi-Banda said Mutharika is right as heads of State are not prosecutors.
He said the society believes that the concern of the commission and other Malawians is that there are many cases where credible allegations of fraud, corruption and other criminal activities are reported but either no thorough or serious investigations are conducted and where such investigations are conducted, the prosecutorial authorities either do not prosecute the alleged offenders at all or the prosecution is conducted so half-heartedly that one would be forced to believe that it is really not the intention of the State to conclude the cases.
“We are not sure the State President believes that investigative and prosecutorial authorities and agencies in the country are functioning perfectly well in this regard. It would be surprising if he holds that view. But he is the Head of State. He has other important State matters requiring his attention.
“This would explain why he may not be aware that we, Malawi Law Society, just like other organisations, have raised specific examples of inaction on the part of the relevant authorities. The institutions he has mentioned are institutions that we have privately engaged with. Of course, some of our disagreements with them have ended unfortunately in public. So these are matters that we have raised and shall continue to raise,” said Suzi-Banda in an e-mailed response.
However, he said MLS commends some of the progress made in prosecuting Cashgate cases.
Suzi-Banda commended DPP Mary Kachale and her team for showing remarkable zeal and professionalism in prosecuting cases.
During the meeting with MHRC officials, Mutharika also urged the commission to take note of other issues such as tax evasion, tax avoidance and forex externalisation, saying they have a bearing on human rights as the money could have been used to provide social services to Malawians.n