Departing ACB chief speaks out

Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Lucas Kondowe says he is leaving the graft-busting body a happy man, but regrets that challenges remain which frustrate the fight against corruption in the country.

Kondowe’s three-year term at ACB comes to an end today, October 26, after taking charge of a turbulent period during which investigations and prosecution of Cashgate cases nearly ground to a halt.

Kondowe: We have been independent

In an interview with The Nation at ACB head office in Lilongwe yesterday, Kondowe said while the successes and achievements under his tenure were enormous, challenges such as financial and human resource far outweighed them.

He also said no person can claim to have been investigated or prosecuted for political reasons.

Said Kondowe: “There is no single person that can say the ACB went for me for political reasons. We have been professional. We have not looked at political party colours. We have been independent and politics have not guided what we did. Reasonable-minded people can agree with me on that.”

During the interview, he also denied that his leadership received pressure or faced interference from the Executive in execution of his job.

Said Kondowe: “I have had pressure from many stakeholders, but unlike what most people believe that the director gets pressure from the Executive, I would be lying.

“Most of the pressure has come from other stakeholders—the media, the international community and the public.”

He said his biggest challenge was the lack of understanding from stakeholders such as the public, the media and donors that in a democratic country like Malawi, the ACB could not be dictatorial in its conduct.

“Sometimes there is lack of understanding and expectations from our stakeholders. Malawi is a democratic country, not a dictatorship. If maybe the ACB was operating under a dictatorship, we could have achieved more in terms of expectations.

“In a democracy, the ACB and any other institution has got to operate within acceptable laws. Everybody is presumed innocent and it is up to prosecutors to prove them guilty before a competent judge,” said Kondowe.

However, he said his biggest regret is leaving office before the truth behind the murder of ACB director of corporate services Issa Njauju is resolved.

Said the outgoing ACB director: “Njauju’s death was tragic, it shook me and it shook us as a bureau. It taught us that we should not take for granted the security of personnel in such an institution. I am leaving when this issue remains unresolved, I do hope and pray that it will be resolved.”

But Kondowe defended his tenure littered with cases of ‘untouchables’ who successfully prevented ACB from touching them through court injunctions.

Under his watch, the ACB failed to complete the prosecution of the K1.7 billion corruption case against former president Bakili Muluzi and a suspect, businessperson Mohammad Kossam, obtained a permanent injunction against ACB arresting and prosecuting him.

In reaction to such observations, Kondowe said: “Even if I wanted to finish a case today, I have to follow the processes. The accused persons have the right to appeal, to seek injunctions and all sorts of remedies under the law and I cannot take that away from them. Because of these processes, some cases will take time.

“It is not possible for a single person like the director general to influence decisions, even the powers of the director general are limited.”

Kondowe, a trained accountant and auditor, joined ACB from the private sector where he worked at First Merchant Bank amid scepticism of various stakeholders that he would not tick due to his lack of legal background.

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