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Longer wait for Corrupt Practices Act amendment

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Pilirani Masanjala

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and Malawians at large will wait longer for some provisions of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) to be amended.

One of the amendments relates to the provisions that require the ACB to seek consent from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) before commencing criminal proceedings.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pirirani Masanjala said the bill will not be presented to Parliament during the upcoming meeting scheduled for July 18.

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“Government is not taking this amendment to Parliament during this meeting. The amendment removing the requirement for consent from the Criminal Practices Act must be debated in Parliament alongside the constitutional amendment to Section 100.

“Section 100 of the Constitution says the powers vested in the DPP, including to institute and undertake prosecutions or criminal proceedings, are exercisable by the DPP or subject to the DPP’s general or special instructions, or through an Act of Parliament by persons in public service acting as his/her subordinates or such other legally qualified persons on instructions from the DPP. ACB is one such institution in the public service,” he said.

The provision in CPA that requires the ACB to seek consent from the DPP came to the limelight after DPP Steven Kayuni withheld consent from the ACB to commence criminal proceedings against then minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa.

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The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament vowed to bring to Parliament a Private Member’s Bill amending provisions of the Act but Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo took over the bill so that it is brought to Parliament as government business, something lawyer Charles Mhango commended.

“My initial reaction when the committee said they wanted to bring the bill as a Private Member’s Bill was ‘no’. This is a bill which touches on government policy and could not be brought to Parliament as a Private Member’s Bill. As such, it is good that the government has owned it,” he said.

However, in an earlier interview, Malawi Law Society President Patrick Mpaka said the CPA could independently be amended without touching on the Constitution.

Mpaka said the requirement of consent from the DPP takes away with one hand what the same CPA, Section 4(3), gives to the bureau— which is that it is free to exercise its powers and functions independent of the direction of any person or authority.

“Given the unique and special and broader purpose of the anti-corruption law as outlined in sections 10, 11 and 12 of the Corrupt Practices Act, and given the role which that specific anti-corruption law plays in advancing the developmental and economic needs of ordinary people, this proposed amendment would be a move in the right direction to invigorate the fight against corruption and to accord real independence to the ACB in the nation’s quest to curb corruption at high places.

Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament Chairperson Peter Dimba said the committee has had no control over the bill since the government took it over.

“You will remember that government took over that bill; so, it is no longer in our hands, perhaps talk to the Ministry of Justice,” he said.

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