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Members of Parliament insist on Anti-Corruption Bureau freedom

House passes motion to give bureau more powers

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SONGWE—We want a robust bureau

Members of Parliament (MP) Thursday passed a motion allowing the tabling of a Private Members’ Bill which seeks to amend the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA) so that it gives the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) prosecutorial powers.

Moving the motion, MP for Likoma Islands Constituency, Ashems Songwe, said there is a need to repeal section 1, subsection F and section 42 of the CPA which he said are crippling the fight against corruption in Malawi.

Among other things, the sections in question provide that the ACB can only prosecute cases after obtaining consent from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

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Songwe said the CPA in its current form fails to meet its intended objective of ensuring an ACB that operates in a satisfactory, accountable, efficient and transparent manner.

“We would like to attain prosecutorial efficiency of the ACB so that it is able to prosecute its cases with speed. We do not want the case where they are being slowed down by the provision that they have to get consent from the DPP. We want a robust bureau which can exercise its powers according to the expectations of the people,” Songwe said.

In his contribution on the motion, MP for Chikwawa North Constituency, Owen Chomanika, said for a country that loses 30 percent of its resources to corruption, there is a need for an independent ACB.

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“The nature of our laws has corrupted the system that is supposed to stand with Malawians in stamping out a vice which is responsible for their impoverishment. The laws that we have are a stumbling block to justice and time has come for us to address this anomaly,” he said.

In his comment, Chairperson for the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, Peter Dimba, said his committee noted that section 42 of the CPA has been abused over the years, adding that people have been hiding behind it to frustrate the fight against corruption.

Dimba, who also moved a motion for the amendment of the Legal Aid Act, which seeks to give a limited audience in subordinate courts to paralegals and legal assistants, complained about bureaucracy in the Ministry of Justice when it comes to the drafting of amendment bills.

His motion was also passed with the august House unanimously agreeing to enable Malawians in rural areas enjoy their right to legal representation.

“We cannot sacrifice people’s rights at the altar of professional pride. The supply of lawyers is low in the country and yet we have a pool of paralegals and legal assistants who can help represent people within their competence,” Dimba said.

But commenting on both motions, Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo said the proposed amendments have to be done in an orderly manner since they also affect other statutes.

“As government, we are not against the proposed amendments but in both situations, there are constitutional provisions and there must have been good reasons for that, and what it means is that the Constitution also has to be amended so that we do not have laws which are in conflict with each other,” Mvalo said.

He also indicated that the constitutional amendment bills were not ready.

Patrick Mpaka, president of Malawi Law Society, which commenced legal proceedings against the purported amendment of the Legal Aid Act, said they will wait for the output of the parliamentary process and evaluate it for compliance with the law before they make any comment.

According to Mvalo, the bills in question will be brought to Parliament next week but was quick to say the bills to amend the Constitution so that it is consistent with the proposed amended Acts are not ready.

But on freeing the ACB from the grip of the DPP, Mpaka recently stated that the CPA can be amended without touching on the Constitution.

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