The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has yet again cried foul over delayed consent from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to prosecute a bribery case.
In a written response to a questionnaire, ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala said the graft-busting body completed its investigations last year and is ready against some officials from the Department of Mine accused of soliciting bribes from a Chinese investor running Ilomba Mine in Chitipa. to start prosecution of the case
The bureau said it sought consent from the DPP in January this year, but it is yet to get a response despite several reminders.
Ndala said: “The bureau can confirm that the ACB concluded investigations into the Ilomba mine case. It is awaiting consent from the DPP.”
On what was delaying the consent, DPP Steve Kayuni said in an interview at the weekend he advised the ACB what to do way back and referred us back to the bureau for an explanation.
He said: “There is clearly a misapprehension of issues here. The ACB was advised what to do way back. Kindly follow up with them.”
But ACB director general Martha Chizuma maintained that the DPP was nonresponsive even after writing him twice, thereby causing the delay to start prosecution.
She said the bureau first sought consent in January this year and a follow up was made in March, but got no response.
Chizuma said: “From the records, we have requested for consent on Ilomba from the DPP in January 2022 together with Ashok Nair consent. When responding to us, the DPP only raised issues with Ashok Nair application. There is nothing on Ilomba.
“In March 2022, we followed up with the DPP on the same requesting for the consent or to advise if there were other things that he required us to do for him to grant consent. From our records we never received any response from the DPP on the same.”
In the Ilomba case, the bureau received a complaint in 2020 after a leaked audio where former Ministry of Mines chief mining engineer Cassius Chiwambo was allegedly soliciting bribes from Ilomba Granite Company Limited.
The issue of the DPP granting consent to the ACB, as provided for in the Corrupt Practices Act, attracted intense debate in February this year after the DPP withheld consent to the bureau in the case involving Ashok Nair, a business associate of United Kingdom-based Zuneth Sattar who is facing corruption charges in UK.
The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament said it would push for an amendment of the law to remove the requirement for the ACB to seek consent from the DPP to prosecute cases.
Committee chairperson Peter Dimba said in an earlier interview: “The committee will, therefore, move a Private Member’s Motion seeking leave of the House to bring a Private Member’s Bill on the matter concerning the granting of consent to the ACB by the DPP under the CPA.”
But Univer s i ty of Malawi law professor Garton Kamchedzera is on record as having said the committee’s decision was merely populist and lacked proper legal guidance.
He said: “It [the committee] is not looking at principles and technical issues that go with these things in terms of the future because if you do not have the current DG [director general] in position and you have one that is bent on impunity, then you are into problems.”
The issue of consent has for sometime created tension between the DPP and the ACB.
In recent months, the ACB on one hand and the DPP and the Office of the Attorney General on the other have publicly clashed on issues of procedure, a situation some have perceived as throwing spanners into the graft fight drive.
During a press conference in April this year, President Lazarus Chakwera confirmed knowledge of the poor working relationship among the three agencies and tasked Minister of Justice Titus Mvalo to look into the matter.