Lilongwe South-West member of Parliament (MP) Peter Chakhwantha (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) is today scheduled to table a Private Member’s Bill that seeks to trim presidential powers in the appointment of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) top brass.
In the run-up to the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) promised that the appointment and removal of heads of accountability institutions such as ACB, Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and parastatals would be “on merit through a special public appointments committee”.
However, the government side in Parliament was in the forefront opposing the motion preceding the Bill on the basis that the powers of the President to appoint were entrenched in the Constitution.
The Bill, which is appearing as Corrupt Practices (Amendment) Act, 2016 and appears as P.M.B number one of 2016 on the Order Paper, seeks to amend sections 5 and 7 of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) to enhance the independence of the operations of the ACB.
The Bill proposes that Section 5 (1) of the CPA which reads that “the President shall, on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit, appoint the director” should be deleted and be replaced with “the director shall be appointed by the Public Appointments Committee on such conditions as the committee shall think fit”.
Further, Chakhwantha proposes an additional Section 5(3) which outlines that the director of ACB would be appointed after the committee calls for nominations from the public through an advert placed by the Clerk of Parliament.
When Chakhwantha first tabled the motion preceding the Bill, the opposition power in numbers became apparent in the House when it was carried with 75 votes against 67 among the government MPs with 51 absentees from both sides.
To avoid a similar occurrence with the Bill, government has fiercely lobbied ‘friendly’ independent MPs to assist in shooting it down when it is tabled.
An independent MP who opted for anonymity told The Nation that leadership of the DPP in the House met them after Parliament adjourned on Monday to ask them not to pass the Bill if it comes to division.
However, at least three of the independent MPs claimed that the government did not offer them any money in exchange for the ‘no’ vote but were just informed that they would be adequately rewarded soon.
Leader of the House Francis Kasaila said the DPP had every right to hold caucuses with its members as provided for in the Standing Orders.
When the motion was tabled, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu led the opposition of the motion, arguing that powers of the President to appoint were entrenched in the Constitution and the Public Appointments Committee to provide checks and balances in the work of ACB.
The last time a private member’s bill was brought before Parliament, then an independent MP for Karonga Nyungwe in 2003, sought a third term for former president Bakili Muluzi.