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Study exposes graft fight pitfalls

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Justing Dzonzi

A University of Edinburgh study on dynamics of law enforcement in high-level corruption cases in Malawi, released on January 20 this year, has revealed gaps that are derailing the fight against corruption in the country.

The study, which Global Integrity Anti-Corruption Evidence Programme funded, reveals that the Malawi legal framework is characterised by operational hitches.

It adds that whistle-blower protection efforts have been facing challenges due to bureaucratic culture, lack of incentives and feelings of insecurity by would-be whistle-blowers, also indicating that trials experience significant delays due to adjournments, lack of resources and other disruptions.

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The study, titled ‘Law Enforcement and High- Level Corruption In Malawi: Learning From Cashgate’, further analysed factors shaping law enforcement activities in Malawi.

“The legal framework is characterised by a patchwork of statutes resulting in discrepancies, overlap, gaps and lack of clarity. Whistle-blower protection has been facing significant challenges due to bureaucratic culture, lack of incentives and feelings of insecurity by would-be whistle-blowers and trials experience significant delays due to adjournments, lack of resources and other disruptions,” the report reads.

On institutional architecture, the report indicates that the effectiveness of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) continues to be affected by considerable weaknesses in system security and auditing, law enforcement is hampered by lack of resources and sufficiently trained staff while the interface between investigators and prosecutors is characterised by a lack of consistent cooperation and coordination

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The paper recommends a comprehensive review of the Penal Code, the Corrupt Practices Act and related laws to ensure uniformity and clarity.

“The review should be initiated by the Ministry of Justice drawing on input from stakeholders including MPS [Malawi Police Service], ACB [Anti- Corruption Bureau], DPP [Democratic Progressive Party], Ombudsman, [Malawi] Human Rights Commission and Malawi Law Commission in close collaboration with the Parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee to ensure that any amendments constitute actual improvements and strike the balance between human rights concerns and effective rule of law,” the paper indicates.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Pilirani Masanjala said the ministry was not aware of the concerns raised but that, that notwithstanding, the pieces of legislation in question were under review one way or the other.

Lawyer Justin Dzonzi said having a patchwork of statues could, indeed, affect the fight against corruption but not to great extent.

“If I may put it on a scale of one to 100, it cannot be anything more than 20. Again, one has to understand the historical background to having a number of statutes. Initially, all the offences were provided for in the Penal Code. Around the time when the countries across Africa were embracing democracy, and corruption became a governance issue, there was an increased call that a better way of tacking corruption was to have a specific law to guide the fight,” he said.

ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala said she needed more time before she could comment on the issues which the paper has raised.

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