…offers 60-day amnesty for beneficiaries and enablers of plunder
…Law expert questions Amnesty validity
BY GOLDEN MATONGA
All companies belonging to businessman Zuneth Sattar will no longer be eligible for government contracts after the Attorney General (AG) kicked the embattled businessman out of government procurement by terminating all existing government contracts and debarring the companies from any future involvement in public procurement.
Sattar is under investigation both by anti-corruption authorities in Malawi and the United Kingdom where Sattar is based for alleged massive corruption in Malawi where several of his companies trade with the Malawi government.
In a press release announcing the decision, the Attorney General further announced a 60-day amnesty for all individuals and institutions such as banks that facilitated the corrupt transactions.
Analysts and Malawians from various walks of life –commenting via interviews and social media—immediately welcomed the move as a step in the right direction in the fight against corruption.
However, prominent law expert Danwood Chirwa yesterday questioned the validity of the amnesty, saying the Attorney General has overstepped his mandate in announcing the amnesty.
In the statement, AG Thabo Nyirenda named the Sattar owned or connected companies to include Top Prima FZE, Malachite FZE, Xaviar Investment Ltd, Xelite Strips, Molecules General Trading, Pryte General Trading. The move comes as authorities in UK and Malawi are investigating Sattar for state-capture level corruption.
The AG said his office came across information circulating in print and social media in relationship to the Sattar investigation in relation to procurement-related offenses for a period of over eleven years.
“This is on the basis of convenience and public interest pursuant to section 46 (c) of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets act, 2017. In terms of Section 46 (c) of the Procurement and Disposal Assets Act, Government enjoys immunity from paying a supplier lost profits and any other expenses reasonably incurred,” added the statement.
Said Chirwa: “The amnesty is not backed by the law. Prosecutions and investigations don’t lay with the office of the Attorney General. He is acting outside his Authority. There is no immunity law in Malawi. The appropriate approach is to bring charges, people please guilty and are sentenced to lesser sentences.”
Said Kajoloweka: “The debarment of the companies is a welcome development. If we are to win the fight against corruption. We must make sure we increase the cost of those involved in corruption. This move by the AG sends a serious message that it will cost you if you are involved in corruption.”
“This is what we should really be doing as a country to fight corruption. It’s also important that while we look at how the investigation is going on, we should look at how such resources which might have been lost through dubious contracts,” he added.
On the issue of amnesty, Kajoloweka said Malawians should recall that it was also part of the political campaign and the idea is that to quickly recover the resources without a lengthy and costly court trial.
“So people can voluntarily come into the open and surrender what they stole to the government. What is important is that the amnesty is more transparent and accountable. We expect the AG to develop a clear model on how the amnesty is going to work,” he said.
The National Crimes Agency (NCA) and Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) are collaborating in the Sattar investigation that has seen the ACB arresting already Sattar’s associate Ashok Nair and Minister of Lands Kezzie Msukwa while the NCA arrested Sattar in the UK, according to a court document tendered in court recently.
Sattar, whose companies are major suppliers to the military and police is accused of offering and paying bribes to politically exposed individuals in Malawi government for decades.
Meanwhile, in a related development t Attorney General has also debarred companies belonging to Zameer Karim, who is on trial for the food rations scandal at Malawi Police Service.
The case is ongoing at the Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court in Lilongwe.
Wrote AG Thabo Nyirenda: “The contract to supply food rations at Malawi Police Service violated the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act as well the Corrupt Practices Act.
“In view of the foregoing, I advise that all companies owned by and all the companies associated with or connected to Zameer Karim including the following companies should not be allowed to conduct business with Government or any Governmental entity,” said the AG.
The two companies named to belong to Karim are Pioneer Investments and Oil and Protein Limited.