The Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a multi-faith human rights and social watchdog, has proposed that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should transform into a commission to be freed from political and government interference.
Briefing journalists after a four-hour closed-door meeting with the ACB in Lilongwe, PAC chairperson the Reverend Felix Chingota said while strides have been made in terms of fighting corruption, there is still more to be done, including making the bureau a commission to allow independent undertaking of business.
He said: “We, as PAC, would like to advance a reform on transforming the bureau into a commission, with its commissioners serving as a board which will cushion the director from interfacing too much with authorities. This will be in addition to reforming the ACB in terms of removal of the ACB director; this is our proposal which can be rejected or accepted.”
ACB director general Reyneck Matemba has since welcomed the PAC suggestion, but said it was not necessarily the idea of a commission that would define the output, but the performance matters.
He said: “Personally, I feel the idea is good, but even if we are to become a commission and we do like we do, it won’t change. The output has to be seen.
“Currently, we are told what to do because of the nature of our organisation. So, the idea of a commission is welcome.”
The ACB’s current reporting mechanism is that it reports to Parliament, the President and Cabinet as well as Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
But PAC said the reporting arrangement at times tends to jeopardise the work of the bureau.
Chingota said PAC’s independence and political-will are crucial in the fight against corruption.
During the country’s first National Anti-Corruption Conference held in April 2017, there were calls to trim presidential powers in the appointment and firing of key officers, but President Peter Mutharika and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu dismissed the proposals.
Since the establishment of ACB, Malawi has registered strides in terms of its record index and the bureau has had positive progress of the public’s awareness levels of the dangers and evils of corruption.
The 2010 Governance and Corruption Survey showed that the percentage of the population that consider corruption as a major constraint to development had increased to 79 percent from 59 percent in 2005.
Apart from proposing a reform on the commission, PAC also discussed with ACB the issue of the involvement of the President in the Malawi Police Service K2.7 billion food rations scandal exposed through a leaked ACB investigations report that showed that a supplier deposited K145 million into a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) account at Standard Bank whose sole signatory is the President.