The Mzimba Magistrate’s Court yesterday convicted Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor (North) and former Mzimba Hora legislator Christopher Mzomera Ngwira of abuse of office.
Under the Corrupt Practices Act, the maximum sentence for those found guilty is a 12-year jail sentence.
Ngwira, who was prosecuted by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for diverting K650 000 from the Local Development Fund (LDF), earlier reimbursed some of the money.
ACB director general Reyneck Matemba, in an interview yesterday, said the conviction will serve as a lesson to other high-profile figures to avoid abusing public resources.
He said: “For us, the matter was not really about the amount of money but the profile of the accused person as a member of Parliament [MP]. He is a public figure and he should have been exemplary. There have been many complaints about MPs abusing public resources.”
Matemba said the case also highlights the anti-graft body’s commitment to prosecute all cases indiscriminately.
He said ACB is also prosecuting the former MP on seven other counts of abuse of office related to other LDF funds.
Said Matemba: “He has just taken plea in the other case in which he has seven counts of similar nature, all connected to LDF. So, that should be taken into consideration during the sentencing.”
The Mzimba Magistrate’s Court has since adjourned sentencing to October 12.
The ACB arrested Ngwira in January 2018 following an allegation on how LDF funds were used after an initial complaint to do with invoices Ngwira presented of Yogi and Mzimba Hardware, purporting to have supplied building materials for Lukwelukwe School project which was funded by the LDF under Mmbelwa District Council.
Investigations by the bureau established that Ngwira advised the project management committee to sign blank withdrawal slips and told them not to indicate the total amount to be withdrawn and thereafter, filled the blank withdraw slip with an amount of K650 000.
According to ACB, the figure was reduced to K250 000 in court after it transpired that Ngwira later refunded K400 000.
Meanwhile, the fate of DPP vice-president (C) Uladi Mussa also hangs in the balance.
Mussa, also prosecuted by the ACB, will today hear from the High Court whether he is guilty or not in a case where he is alleged to have abused office in issuing passports and granting citizenship.
Then opposition People’s Party interim leader Mussa, was arrested in March 2017 and officially charged with negligence and abuse of office.
He later switched to then governing DPP but was at one point forced to resign from his position as former president Peter Mutharika’s adviser after the United States Government sanctioned him and his wife for involvement in corruption.
Mussa is the first accused person in the case in which David Henry Kanjama is second accused, Peter Katasya is third accused and Pascal Kwasa is fourth accused.
He denied any wrongdoing and has recently confirmed interest to vie for the DPP presidency but any criminal conviction will make him ineligible to contest for any public office.