Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has written the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for a meeting to map the way forward on the K2.7 billion Malawi Police Service (MPS) food rations scam.
PAC’s communication to the graft-busting body follows a leaked ACB investigative report that showed abuse of public resources and implicated President Peter Mutharika in connection with K145 million Pioneer Investments Limited deposited into a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) account at Standard Bank for which he is the sole signatory.
In an interview yesterday, PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani said his committee will start meeting from next week and is hoping to meet the ACB during the first week.
He said the bureau will also be queried on some files relating to the K236 billion unaccounted for public funds in the five years leading up to December 2014.
Said Menyani: “We will summon ACB for an oversight function we have always played. As a parliamentary committee, we are concerned with the way the bureau has handled the leakage [of the investigation report].
“We are suspicious with how some files were cleared which involved top officials. Had it not been for the leakage, I bet this [police food rations scandal] case could have been swept under the carpet… So, it is suspicious and we would like to know more from the chief investigator and the director of the bureau.”
He said the leaked investigation dossier has raised more questions than answers regarding how the ACB handles files involving high profile people. He feared a possibility that some cases are just closed for fear of reprisals.
PAC said delays by the ACB to start prosecuting culprits in the police food rations deal leaves a lot to be desired and raises suspicions that some cases the ACB cleared relating to Cashgate—the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill exposed ion 2013—involving top public officers could have simply been dismissed.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) and United States of America Ambassador Virginia Palmer have called for a thorough investigation by the ACB without any interference. The CSOs also gave the bureau 14 days, which have since elapsed, to investigate the matter.
Last week, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba told human rights defenders that he cannot commit to a time frame during which investigations into the police food rations scam would be completed and arrests and prosecution started.
CSO leaders who included Gift Trapence, the Reverend Macdonald Sembereka, Billy Mayaya and Andrew Salima Matemba took ACB to task for prioritising investigations into the leakage of the dossier, but not the actual scam.
In January this year, former Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa told PAC that the contract signed between MPS and Pioneer Investments Limited for the supply of food rations was null and void and he was withdrawing consent to the government to pay K567 million in interest claim.
The Auditor General also faulted MPS for awarding the contract to Pioneer Investments when the supplier had asked for a price adjustment, a development that bloated the contract price from K2.3 billion to K2.7billion.
The Auditor General said the 20 percent price adjustment which he said MPS erroneously agreed to was overblown because the depreciation of the dollar to the kwacha rate at the time was less than 20 percent.
CSOs have since demanded a refund of the K145 million by Mutharika and DPP besides pushing for the impeachment of the President.