- The trend is against the law, says Ndala
The Anti-Corruption Bureau has expressed concern over sentencing trends for corruption offenders by the courts, saying they are hampering efforts to curb the fight against the vice.
ACB’s concern comes against a background of several court cases in recent years where some suspects were found guilty of corruption but not convicted.
In one case, according to ACB senior public relations officer Egrita Ndala, the bureau received a complaint alleging that a sales clerk at Chamama Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi (SFFRFM) Satellite Depot in Kasungu, Tawanda Masiye, was selling fertiliser under the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) at K2 500 ($5) per 50 kilogranmme (kg) bag instead of the recommended K500.
The officer was suspected to have been pocketing the difference during the 2013/14 farming season.
Ndala said ACB investigations established that the allegation was true and Masiye was arrested on February 24 2015.
In a statement, Ndala said: “He [Masiye] was taken to Kasungu Magistrate’s Court and he was charged with corrupt transactions by or with private bodies contrary to Section 26(1) of the Corrupt Practices Act. The court found Masiye guilty, but did not convict him.”
In a similar development, Ndala said ACB received a complaint in 2010 alleging that police officers in Kasungu solicited and received K10 000 ($19) from three farmers for the police officers to release subsidised seed which they had confiscated from the farmers.
She said the bureau established that police officers—James Maganga and Ephraim Nasala—seized 20 packets of maize seed from the farmers on the pretext that the farmers did not have identity cards.
Said Ndala: “When the farmers produced the identity cards, the police officers demanded K5 000 from each of them. The farmers managed to pay K10 000, but the police officers did not return the seed to the farmers.”
The bureau took the two cops to Kasungu Magistrate’s Court in 2011 and they were charged with one count of corrupt practices by public officers, abuse of office and theft.
In its ruling of July 15 2015, Kasungu Magistrate’s Court found the two guilty of all the charges. However, the court applied Section 337 (1) (a) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Code and dismissed the charges, according to Ndala.
Similarly, in the case of the arrested Kennedy Jamu, a debt collector in Blantyre in 2011 for allegedly “corruptly” soliciting money to reopen a shop which was closed by Blantyre City Council, the accused was arrested on August 27 2011.
Jamu was found guilty and convicted on the offence on July 29 2015. He was handed two years imprisonment with hard labour which was, however, suspended for three years, according to Ndala.
“The bureau is concerned about this sentencing trend as it is against Section 34 of the Corrupt Practices Act which states that any person who is guilty of an offence under this part [Part IV] of the Corrupt Practices Act shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of 12 years,” she said
In recent years, court sentences in several cases related to corruption and Cashgate—the plunder of resources at Capital Hill—have come under public scrutiny with many feeling the sentences were inconsistent and, in some cases, not deterrent enough.
Currently, a Special Law Commission is seeking public views on sentencing. Proposals coming from the consultations point to the need for the country to have guidelines on sentencing.