Government has been authorised to spend some K2.84 trillion in the 2022-23 financial year. There obviously are individuals out there who are already salivating at the money to be spent on various initiatives. They are seeing the passing of the budget as authority to loot wherever they can.
That is why any budget needs to be sufficiently guarded because there always are chances funds may end up in the wrong hands.
Immediately after the 2022-23 financial blueprint was passed, some jokes flew around to the effect that public officers have the chance to go to workshops for 10 days in a week.
Now, this may seem to be just something said in jest, but it is emanating from an entrenched belief and culture that public resources can be abused without control.
In fact, there are officers who are already drawing up plans of how they will loot hard-earned taxpayers’ money as the next budget will be implemented.
It is a sad reality! But let things be different this time.
There have been moments where up to 40 percent of our national budget has ended up in wrong pockets through collusion between members of the private sector and public officers.
That is why we are stuck with this level of wretchedness. If only the little resources that we generate or get supported with were used for the intended purposes, we would not be talking about hospitals being far apart, roads being in bad conditions, school blocks not being enough or public buildings being in poor states.
Our story would be different.
Development is gradual and countries that have achieved it were resolute about what they were doing and did things little by little until they got where they are. They had plans for doing things and knew that from one level, they would go to another.
But what has been happening in Malawi is very pathetic. It has been looting after looting, with the looters devising all evil plans for achieving their ends.
In fact, the massive stealing of public funds, which was later dubbed Cashgate, just showed a tip of the iceberg regarding how organised villains plunder this country.
It had been happening before and it continues happening now. If we are not serious about dealing with the vice, we can as well forget about achieving all the ambitious goals laid out in the Malawi 2063.
Already, the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) warned about deep-seated graft that is holding this country back, with the bureau’s chief Martha Chizuma pointing out that the road to 2063 will be rugged.
Her concerns simply echo what has been said and officially reported before. More than a few studies by Transparency Initiative and other organisations have shown that corruption is not abating.
This is despite all the conferences that have been organised in this country before to discuss ways of eradicating the cancer.
It is refreshing that Malawians are becoming more and more vigilant and are not letting any dubious deal drain their taxes before it is properly scrutinised.
Of course, we have to acknowledge that there are those that evade the observant eye of patriotic whistle-blowers but surely their day will come. It is just a matter of time.
On the budget which is about to start being implemented, there should be more scrutiny from every Malawian. Let every penny, drawn from the sweat of Malawians, do its right job.
In the budget, there are loans which Malawians will be repaying, which need to be prudently utilised. It is pathetic that for some projects, loans have been obtained more than once without much progress.
It is even more worrying that even though we have accessed so many loans, we are still stuck with poverty; and we keep obtaining them.
A budget should essentially not give anyone authority to loot but that has been the thinking of some ill-minded people who jump at every opportunity to steal.
Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe has a huge task of ensuring what he releases out there does not end up in wrong hands. He has to see developments taking place with the resources planned in the financial blueprint.
Well, that is everyone’s responsibility.
The systems of procurement, allowances and contracts that have been used to steal public resources should be cleansed. Only after that will we move from this wretchedness.
Malawi is a small country with a huge potential to develop if the right people are in the right positions and are patriotic enough not to reap where they did not sow.
Of course, there are businesspersons who do not care about this country because they come from elsewhere, after all. They are only here to steal and externalise the money back to their countries.
The problem is that these wicked businesspersons have their enablers in the government system who are ever willing to bend the rules. At least, we are seeing the Attorney General fervently fighting senseless and dishonest claims.
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. He believes that quality reporting is critical in bringing positive change in communities. Alick is the Southern Africa Development Community journalist of the year (2020) in the television category. Follow him on Twitter @aponje