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Special court delays rile ACB

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MVALO— Government has been supporting
the ACB

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has bemoaned delays to establish a Financial Crimes Court, saying this has negatively affected the prosecution of corruption-related cases.

ACB Director-General Martha Chizuma made the observation after a report has indicated that the bureau prosecuted 103 corruption cases in the year 2020-21, of which 16 were completed, representing a 15.5 percent success rate.

This is a drop from 2019-20 statistics, in which they completed 18 cases out of the 50 which they prosecuted, representing a 36 percent completion rate.

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Chizuma attributed to the tumble in performance to the backlog of cases in the country’s courts, reiterating calls for the establishment of a Financial Crimes Court.

“Almost all the litigation in the country is court-led and depends on how much time the court apportions to a particular case, and, looking closely, even the cases that were completed are from previous years. The courts are clogged up with a lot of cases [such that] they can only do so much and the bureau, as a prosecuting agency, can only push so much,” Chizuma explained in a telephone interview yesterday.

The bureau has indicated, in its 2020-21 annual report, that among the 16 cases that have been successfully prosecuted, six were criminal while 10 were civil cases which were duly defended, with the bureau being awarded costs by the courts in some of them.

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“Out of the six criminal cases, four led to convictions, representing 67 percent of the completed criminal cases… There are 13 cases whose prosecutions completed but are awaiting judgement in various courts across Malawi,” a report signed by the ACB boss reads.

According to the report, in the year under review, the ACB commenced prosecutions of 18 cases while 85 were brought forward from the previous year.

It is also on record that the bureau completed the highest number of cases in the year 2013-14, at 35, after prosecuting 63 cases and securing three convictions.

The highest number of convictions was registered in the 2019-20 financial year, with nine convictions.

In 2020-21, however, the graft-bursting body received 1,217 complaints compared to the 642 which were received in the 2019-20 financial year, representing an 89.6 percent increase.

“Of the 1,217 complaints, 399 complaints were recommended for investigations, which represents 33 percent of the total complaints received, while 464 complaints, representing 38 percent, did not contain any elements of corruption, with 171 complaints being referred to other institutions for their appropriate action,” the report adds.

Chizuma said, in previous years, the bureau was operating with about 14 prosecutors at various levels, who were overwhelmed with the volumes of work, adding that they now have about 30 of them, with Chizuma expressing hope that this would bring about change in terms of the time it takes to prosecute a case.

During a press briefing which President Lazarus Chakwera organised on Tuesday, Justice Minister Titus Mvalo said the Tonse Alliance-led administration had strengthened human capacity at the ACB.

He indicated that a good number of people had been recruited at the bureau in a bid to strengthen the staff contingent.

“So, in terms of human capacity, we have been supporting the ACB. The number of people working there has increased,” he said.

Meanwhile, National Anti-Corruption Alliance Chairperson Moses Mkandawire has backed calls to establish the Financial Crimes Court.

“This will go a long way in ensuring speedy litigation of cases related to organised financial crimes and corruption,” he said.

At Tuesday’s presser, Chakwera asked Chizuma to, within 21 days, furnish him with a report on all high-profile corruption cases that the bureau is handling.

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