Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya Friday stunned people who attended the closing ceremony of the two-day National Anti-Corruption Conference in Lilongwe when he said the country’s perception on corruption cannot change if relevant government agencies used in the fight are not completely free.
He said he was concerned when a motion to free the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was defeated in Parliament. The motion was prepared by lawmaker for Lilongwe South West, Peter Chakhwantha.
Msowoya said if appointments of Director of ACB, the Auditor General and other crucial officers in the fight against corruption continue being made the way they are at the moment, people’s perception on corruption in the country will not change.
Several other stakeholders have made similar sentiments before, asking that the President should not be making the appointments.
Said Msowoya: “Appointments are not made on merit. They are made on political or tribal lines. It is only the Assets Declaration Office that is independent. Officers were appointed following open interviews by a parliamentary committee [Public Appointments Committee]. If we do the same with all institutions, we will do away with perceptions that are there,” Msowoya said.
He added that if steps are not taken to free agencies in the fight against corruption, “we have no basis for crying that corruption perceptions are exaggerated”.
Just as they were doing with other speakers, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters cheered him after his speech.
However, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, took some time to justify presidential powers in appointing top officials to institutions that help in fighting corruption.
“Leadership must take the lead in the fight against corruption. It would be defeating that purpose if powers are taken away from the leadership. I don’t see why and how the Office of the President can be divorced from making appointments. Judges are appointed the same way, no one complains. It has to be something else, not the manner of appointment,” Tembenu said.
In his speech, he also outlined some of the resolutions of the two-day conference. They include the need to review the policy and legislative environment in the fight against corruption and an improvement on whistle-blowing.
At the function, Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda, stressed that efforts should be made to reduce the perception on corruption.
“A well-functioning judicial system is imperative to the fight against corruption. The Judiciary must remain impartial and most importantly, be seen to be impartial,” he said.
Nyirenda added: “Judicial officers must take a leading role in eradicating the scourge within its ranks. For any judiciary to be associated with corruption, it is a tragedy.”
He also stressed the need for collaboration by all stakeholders in the fight against the vice.
In his speech, President Peter Mutharika said he has always fought for a stronger ACB, saying in 1995, he turned down an offer to become ACB Director when all powers were with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“You cannot fight against corruption without political will. And it takes more than political will to fight corruption,” Mutharika said.
He also said stories that have been written on alleged seven ministers involved in corruption have only succeeded in raising negative perceptions about corruption in Malawi.
The two-day conference was held under the theme “Corruption in Malawi: Reality or Perception”.
It drew stakeholders from different sectors including the business and diplomatic communities, the civil society, the academia, the Legislature and the Judiciary.