The government has taken over from the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament the task of amending Section 42 of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) to remove provisions that require the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to seek consent from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) before instituting criminal proceedings on suspects.
The committee was planning to table a Private Member’s Bill after DPP Steven Kayuni withheld consent from ACB Director General Martha Chizuma in a case where the graft-busting body wanted to prosecute corruption suspect Ashok Kumar Sreedharan, popularly known as Ashok Nair.
Justice Minister Titus Mvalo had initially asked that the bill be delayed pending formulation of the National Prosecutions Policy but, after a meeting with members of the Legal Affairs Committee yesterday, Mvalo agreed to bring the bill to Parliament in the current meeting as government business.
“We are confident that it is possible for us to bring the bill during this meeting. It is not a very complicated bill; so, we should be able to bring it during this meeting,” he said.
Buy, while commending the move, former attorney general Charles Mhango said the process may not be completed within this budget meeting of Parliament.
“My initial reaction, when the committee [members] said they wanted to bring the bill as a Private Member’s Bill, my comment was ‘no’. This is a bill that touches on government policy and could not be brought to Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill. It is good that the government has owned it.
“Having said that, I don’t think that, with the time that is remaining for this meeting, the bill can be brought to Parliament during this meeting. Normally, after people make the draft, it goes to the Cabinet committee of legal affairs before it is presented to the main committee chaired by the President. After that, the bill is taken to Parliament. There, notices are made, the readings, and all other processes take place,” he said.
Committee chairperson Peter Dimba described the bill as a game-changer in fighting corruption.
He said his committee had agreed to present the bill as Private Member’s Bill during the last week of the meeting if the government did not live by its word.
“This amendment is quite radical and a game-changer in as far as the fight against corruption is concerned. This is an indicator that the government is serious on the fight against corruption, a vice that has affected our country for decades,” he said.
Dimba added that the proposal to amend Section 42 of CPA was not new as, in 2002, the special law commission chaired by Justice George Chimasula Phiri and comprising the likes of lawyer Modecai Msisha also recommended that the section was an unnecessary hurdle in the fight against corruption.