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Pac should do a proper job on HTD probe

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The announcement by the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament that it is probing a car dealer, HTD Limited, in a corruption scandal involving K2 billion is a very welcome development.

Pac vice Chairperson, Kamlepo Kalua, told this paper that his committee suspected uncompetitive tendencies in contracts that HTD had and that some corners were cut in the process.

The initiative by Pac is commendable because if indeed there was wrong doing, it is the tax-payer that may have lost his money. You see corruption is reciprocal. The supplier buys from the buyer to get favours while the buyer may also auction himself to the highest bidder.

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A few years ago, HTD flooded the market with its Kia brand. Government ministries, departments and agencies bought a fleet from the dealer. Even the presidential convoy did not resist the temptation to have some sleek Kia vehicles.

But flooding the market with a product does not necessarily mean that the dealer is buying his way through. It might mean that the product has clicked with customers. In any case, Kia has been named a safe car of the year on several occasions. The probe will, therefore, bring to surface the truth and help clear the picture.

One only hopes that the probe is being done in good faith. Pac and other Parliamentary committees seem to play with the emotions of Malawians. They announce a probe with hype and a few days later, they come out and declare that the suspect is innocent.

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Pac did that with a certain Lilongwe based business empire owned by Malawians of Asian origin. Pac created so much hype bordering on defamation. It dragged the Attorney General’s office into the mix. But the probe ended with an anti-climax where the MPs declared that there was no wrong doing on the part of the owners.

In fact, Pac turned into a public relations agent for the firm, a development that raised suspicion among discerning observers.

Then Pac came in with a new release. This time around, it claimed that it had names of seven Cabinet ministers who were implicated in the K577 billion kwacha scam. The Executive Arm of government challenged Pac to come out with the names. Instead of biting the bullet, Pac Chairperson Alekeni Menyani and his deputy Kalua turned against each other on the matter.

Today, we no longer hear about the said files. The next thing Pac wanted was to fly to Kenya and sniff on some reported fraud at the Malawi embassy in Nairobi. Pac’s zeal on the mater surprised some quarters who questioned Pac’s technical capacity to probe fraud. Why was Pac disinterested to work with or through public agents such as the Fiscal Police or the Anti-Corruption Bureau?

This raises the need for the accountability of Pac to be checked as well.

However, there is need to applaud the arrangement that Parliament should play its oversight role through committees. For instance, the Agriculture Committee of Parliament did a wonderful job in probing the infamous Maizegate. The results are there for all to see.

The Natural Resources and Agriculture Committee also have done quite a commendable work. So too has the Health Committee.

But there is need to perfect the art of investigations in this country. Several crooks get off hook because investigators do hasty work. It becomes very strange to hear a lead investigator telling a court of law that he had no reasonable grounds to arrest a suspect yet he went ahead to curtail freedom of such a suspect.

Law is a very technical area. The justice system talks of proof beyond reasonable doubt. Many corrupt people escape jail on technicalities and not necessarily because they are innocent.

Investigators must avoid being biased or political in their work. Investigations must strengthen public trust in the system. It is so disheartening to see a police officer who has been implicated in serial robbery cases simply being transferred from Blantyre to Mitundu in Lilongwe. The public follows such developments. No wonder they resort to administering justice their own way which is also retrogressive.

The country is failing to bust organised crime because investigators are an integral party of such syndicates. Does that not explain why a police officer is implicated in abductions and killings of people with albinism? Was he a lone ranger or he had blessings of his seniors?

Whatever the case, let Pac do a thorough job on the HTD probe or else they should hold their peace for evermore.

Feedback: ichitosi@bnltimes.com

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