The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director General, Reyneck Matemba, has told the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament the bureau will fight hard to ensure that government pays nothing to the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary General, Gresselder Jeffrey, who is seeking compensation estimated in billions of kwachas.
Jeffrey and three others want the government to compensate them for loss of business, malicious prosecution and defamation among other grounds, after they were acquitted by the High Court on charges of stealing about K187 million in Ministry of Education scam between 1994 and 2004.
But when ACB officials appeared before the parliamentary committee yesterday for the update on various cases, Matemba said the case was purely won on technical grounds and Jeffrey could have also been convicted.
He said that he had gone through the judgement where they were acquitted but was cautious not to comment much on that ruling because he does not want to reflect badly on the judge who was handling the case.
“This case was won purely on technical grounds. The judge said ‘this was a contractual matter, there was no need for ACB to arrest and prosecute’. The bureau tried to appeal against the judgement way back and had very good grounds to appeal yet the courts frustrated the process and the time to appeal elapsed.
“The fact that someone is acquitted does not mean they did not commit an offence. For us, she could have been convicted because others were convicted,” he told the committee.
Speaking in an interview after meeting the committee, Matemba said had the technocrats that were there that time made right decisions, government could have not been in the situation.
“There were other officers and offices not the ACB that made decisions that are causing us problems now. If you look at some of the claims being made now, they have got nothing to do with the Bureau. That is why we will defend tax payers’ money,” he said.
Committee Chairperson, Maxwell Thyolera, said there is need to shorten the period of prosecution to avoid unnecessary acquittals.
“There is need to expedite the process of trying these cases because the longer they take, if it is proven that one is not guilty then the damages that are paid are huge and this is the case with Jeffrey,” he said.
Jeffrey and 55 others were implicated in the scandal that was exposed through an audit report of March 2000 where it was alleged that using her business, she connived with some officers from the divisional education office in Kasungu to defraud millions of public funds.
Out of the 55 people who were implicated in the scam, the four including former Ministry of Education Principal Secretary, Sam Safuli, were convicted and jailed although two of the convictions were later set aside by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal.
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