Renowned Kenyan orator Professor Patrick Lumumba has taken a surprising view on Malawi’s anti-corruption drive, heaping the blame on all other stakeholders but the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
His sentiments come against popular perceptions that the ACB is not doing enough in fighting graft.
While there were no sacred cows in his presentation titled Corruption: The Bane of Africa, delivered at the start of the National Anti-Corruption Conference in Lilongwe, the former head of the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Commission lauded the strength of the Malawi anti-corruption drive, particularly the powers of the ACB to prosecute which, he said, other countries do not have.
He said: “I sympathise with the ACB director. The anti-corruption authority can only be the lead agency, not the resolver of all problems. The role of ACB is prevention, investigation and prosecution but that is as far as their powers go. Corruption must be fought on the basis of sound laws and sound institutions.”
It was his view that other institutions should be involved in the fight against corruption, including the Legislature and the Judiciary.
However, Lumumba, who is currently head of the Kenyan School of Law, did not have kind words for the two arms of government—the Judiciary and the Legislature—despite lauding their potential to play a bigger role in the corruption fight.
On the Legislature, the professor said Parliament, especially the Public Accounts Committee, has the potential to arrest corruption through working with the Auditor General, but noted that members of Parliament’s considerations are always a short-term political future.
He said: “Prosecution is not the only role of ACB, but everyone asks: ‘Who have you jailed? Is it a big fish or a small fly?’ ”
On the Judiciary, Lumumba said: “In many countries, it is part of the problem, not the solution in the corruption fight. When the Judiciary is no longer independent, who will be the arbiter?”
Answering the question posed in the theme of the conference Corruption in Malawi: A Perception or Reality?, Lumumba said many agreed that corruption was a reality; hence, the fight against corruption must come from the top.
He said: “But the President cannot be a lone warrior. Other institutions must be involved. But where is the Legislature? I believe that Parliament is punching below their [belt] because their biggest consideration is the short-term political future.
“There are key things in the fight against corruption. Education can be used to redeem the upcoming generation that 18 years from today there will be a generation which does not indulge in corruption.
“Prevention through declaration of wealth also works as well as private sector involvement because in corruption there is demand and supply sides. Lastly, prosecuting a high ranking official like a minister is more effective in deterring corruption than 10 years of civic education.”
The role that nepotism plays in fostering corruption as well as the murky area of political party financing, in Africa, without mentioning Malawi specifically, was also on Lumumba’s mind.
“People accept corruption and corrupt individuals, even saying ‘he is a thief but he is our own’,” he said.
But while ACB seemed to have the protection of Lumumba, the participants still took the institution to task over failure to prosecute high profile cases and taking too long in concluding investigations.
Lawyer Chrispin Sibande wondered what the ACB had done in addressing strong perceptions that the graft-busting body was not performing in the face of the director general Lucas Kondowe’s presentation that there was poor implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy adopted in 2008 going by the financial and personnel constraints it continues to face.
Makhumbo Munthali from the Evangelical Association of Malawi observed that the perceptions that ACB was not independent emanated from the background of appointments and failure by every administration to change the status quo.
On the independence of the ACB, the 2008 strategy indicated: “In order to ensure that the ACB has effective leadership at all times, recruitment of the director and deputy director should be done competitively through interviews and approval by Parliament.” n