AG chooses silence on deputy speakers

 

Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale has refused to be drawn into allegations of shielding deputy speakers of Parliament Clement Chiwaya and Esther Mcheka-Chilenje from investigations into accusations of dubious claims of house allowances.

The duo is accused of dubiously claiming housing allowances by signing tenancy agreements for their own houses.

Kaphale has previously questioned the decision of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to summon the deputy speakers to a hearing, arguing that Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, who chairs the commission, did not seek his advice before making the call.

Kaphale: The ACB is an independent body
Kaphale: The ACB is an independent body

However, speaking in an interview on Wednesday, Kaphale said he did not advise the deputy speakers not to appear before PSC and he would not disclose what discussions have taken place between him and the Speaker.

He said: “I have never advised any person, but an institution. In this case, the Speaker heads Parliament and if he had sought advice from me then I would give it in writing and not to individuals.”

Responding to calls that the deputy speakers should not have been allowed to continue working as Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigates them, Kaphale said he would not give a view on the matter because ACB is independent.

“I would not want to interfere in the work of the ACB as an independent body mandated to carry out such investigations,” he said.

Second Deputy Speaker: Chiwaya
Second Deputy Speaker: Chiwaya

ACB has backed the decision to allow Chiwaya and Mcheka-Chilenje to continue performing their duties, arguing that they have not interfered in the investigations since they were instituted in August this year.

Parliament has come under fire for allowing them to preside over the just-ended Parliament meeting while under investigation.

“We would not recommend interdiction because the investigation has progressed well without any interference from them. The Anti-Corruption Bureau is still investigating the issue of housing allowances in relation to the two deputy speakers at Parliament,” ACB senior public relations officer Egrita Ndala said in a written response to a questionnaire on the progress of the investigations.

She added that ACB has not taken any action yet since the investigation has not been concluded, but the two deputy speakers are under investigation because information in the publication had merit.

Government has been accused of shielding Chiwaya and Mcheka-Chilenje after the AG stopped PSC from proceeding with a hearing.

Edge Kanyongolo, an associate professor of law at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, in an earlier interview on the matter, demanded that the deputy speakers pay back what they unjustly got from taxpayers to avoid setting a bad precedent for future occupants of the office.

This followed a decision by the PSC that the deputy speakers would no longer be paid housing allowance of K550 000 ($905) which they were claiming, but K250 000 ($411) which was the amount they should have claimed.

The deputy speakers have not challenged the decision, a reaction widely interpreted to be an admission that the allowance they claimed earlier was erroneous. n

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