Martha Chizuma has probably been the most fortunate Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) yet she is the worst of them all. By far Chizuma has been the most supported head of the Anti-graft body. It is under her reign that we have seen the exponential rise of funding to the ACB.
President Lazarus Chakwera’s commitment to the fight against corruption has seen the budgetary allocation to ACB rising from K4.3 billion in 2020 to K6.3 billion in 2022. The ACB operations were hugely held back by understaffing in the past but in the last twenty-four months there has been a great upscale in terms of staff capacity at the Bureau as the number of staff has risen from 150 in 2020 to 287 this year.
Even with these significant shifts in the budgetary allocations and staff capacity Chizuma has done nothing to justify her continued stay at the helm of the graft bursting body. Instead, Chizuma has been fashioning one excuse after another as a cover up for her failure. A breakdown of her performance as the leader of the ACB does not make a good reading to suggest that she is the person we must vest our trust that the fight against graft will be won.
Early this year, Chizuma was caught up in a gross misconduct which constituted to a breach of oath of office following a leaked phone conversation with her so called- male friend where she was heard divulging sensitive information regarding some on-going investigations. There were calls from some quarters for her dismissal but President Chakwera gave her the benefit of doubt and she kept the position solely on the “benefit of doubt” otherwise on another day Chizuma should have been dismissed.
When we though that costly mistake was just one of those erros of judgements and that she had learnt from it, Chizuma was involved in another controversy. This time around it was an issue to do with acting outside the constitution. When President Chakwera ordered Chizuma’s office to furnish him with a report on NCA’s findings regarding Zunneth Sattar’s corruption scandal, Chizuma obliged but she shared the report to the Chief Justice and Speaker of Parliament. Again, this very her act was in breach of Section 4 of the Corrupt Practices Act which says:
”The Director shall submit reports to the President and to the Minister regarding the General Conduct of the affairs of the Bureau.”
Understandably, President Chakwera was not pleased by Chizuma’s gross misconduct and he was visibly incensed by her disregard of the Constitution. Again, President Chakwera forgave her wrong doing, but it did not last long before she found herself in the spotlight for wrong reasons again. This time around she picked battle with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) Steve Kayuni. She accused Kayuni for refusing to grant her consent to proceed with some outstanding cases.
Kayuni was vilified and demonized by Malawians left right and center and he was seen by a majority of Malawians as someone who is reluctant to fight corruption, until it was revealed that she is the one pulling the other side while all law enforcement agencies were working as a team in the fight against corruption.
It was further revealed that the ACB was actually sitting on more than 150 consents from the same DPP she was verifying. Certainly, Chizuma has been given a leeway to fly any way she wants but she is failing even to take off.
Now despite still retaining the support from the populous there had to be a day, when the untouchable was to be found and her incompetency would have to be exposed. The week gone by was that defining moment. It has transpired within the week that the National Anti- Corruption Campaign which was launched in July lacks clear direction casting doubt on whether the campaign will amount to anything.
The Chairperson of the Anti- Corruption Taskforce Moses Mkandawire has since faulted Chizuma for lacking what it takes to coordinate the campaign.
He said: “There should have been an institution coordinating all the efforts. In this case, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, being the epicenter of everything, should have been leading in terms of coordination because it was them and the Ministry of Justice who invited us to that national indaba.”
But as has always been the case, Chizuma has shifted the blame to the resource constraints as the reason the anti-corruption drive is staggering. She said unlike in the previous years where the anti-corruption campaign happened for a month, this year’s will be running for four months which requires extra-funding and outsourcing as the current budgetary allocation cannot adequately suffice. Blame game again.
She says: “So what we have been doing in August were preparations and we hope too roll out intensive programmes from September.”
Looking at that trend, we can certainly say that Chizuma sold Malawians dream and without a doubt she is the worst Director General of the ACB. At the time she was appointed to the position she had the popular approval not only owing to her impeccable record as the Ombudswoman but also being the first woman ACB Director brought even more excitement, but this far it is proving that the position is too big for her. And my fear is that her cluelessness will deal a blow to President Chakwera’s drive of women empowerment. The sooner President Chakwera removes her, the better. It will be good for her as it will relieve her from stress and good for the fight against corruption.