Dust is refusing to settle on the K145 million payout to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) with the Malawi Law Society (MLS) asking the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to act on the party’s intent to refund the ‘donation’.
In an interview yesterday in the wake of DPP’s announcement on Saturday that it will refund the funds deposited into its bank account whose sole signatory is President Peter Mutharika, MLS president Alfred Majamanda DPP’s said move is an admission of wrongdoing; hence, the party wants to show remorse by giving back the money.
Following the development, he said the graft-busting body should see the gesture as a window of opportunity to institute an investigation and get to the bottom of the matter.
Said Majamanda: “It [DPP’s gesture] is an indication that they have indeed realised that the money might be as a result of corrupt activities so they don’t want to be associated with that. At which point, it also means that the ACB ought to get to the bottom of it to find out how one could give such kind of a donation to a [political] party.
“The return of the funds may also be, as it happens in other criminal matters, where you return funds in order to reduce the wrongdoing; to reduce the culpability in order to have a lesser sentence. It might also be a way of indicating that they know that there was wrongdoing in that, but they want to show remorse by giving back the money.”
Reacting to MLS sentiments, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba, in an e-mailed response, said the graft-busting body has taken note of what the Law Society has said.
He said the ACB vigorously pursues all its investigations with the seriousness and commitment they deserve despite facing resource constraints.
Said Matemba: “Despite our limited financial and human resources, and the backlog of cases that we currently have, the ACB managed to investigate this matter, complex as it is, within a period of five months from the date the investigations commenced.”
Matemba’s sentiments on resource constraints fit in with what our sister newspaper Weekend Nation documented in July that the fight against corruption in the country was on the deathbed as Capital Hill was either cutting funding to key institutions, including ACB, Financial Intelligence Authority, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and National Audit Office or dithering to activate tools designed to strengthen the bodies.
The findings showed that ACB funding has dropped by 12 percent since 2014.
The K145 million issue came to light in June following a leaked ACB investigation report which showed that PI Limited made an abortive interest claim of K466 million and deposited the controversial K145 million into the DPP bank account at Standard Bank.
Making the announcement about refunding the money after State House initially described the K145 million as a normal donation, DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said the party felt it right to have the money returned because of what he called a “public misunderstanding”.
He said: “In the interest of transparency, the account was opened to save funds for purchasing the party’s regional headquarters. All payments from this account were made to purchase the party headquarters and meet other party expenses. No money went to the President personally or any other official of the party.”
Dausi, who is also Minister of Information and Communications Technology, said the DPP wants the ACB to proceed with its investigations into the transaction at Malawi Police Service (MPS) headquarters.
PI Limited deposited the funds in the DPP account immediately after getting a K2.7 billion payment for an MPS food rations contract.
During yesterday’s interview, Majamanda said a party cannot just receive money from someone who has been paid huge sums of money from government and think it is just a mere donation.
The MLS president has since advised political parties to always be prudent when receiving donations, especially, by questioning the motives for donating the money.
In an interview with our sister newspaper Nation on Sunday, Mwiza Nkhata, associate professor of law at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, said the DPP’s action does not put away the suspected offence committed since the payback maybe understood as admission of wrongdoing.
Following the leaked ACB document, the DPP administration has come under heavy public pressure with Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) calling for the impeachment of President Mutharika.
Last week, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said his party is ready to sponsor the impeachment motion by providing a legislator to move the same.