Better pull it together
This week came the time of reckoning for the 72 State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) as, one by one, they got to either take the walk of fame or walk of shame as they got called out by Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe, who publicly named the worst and best performers among them. The timing could not have been any better as this happened when they signed agreement letters of expectation for the year 2023.
For starters, how do we begin to justify having up to 72 SOEs when in reality, most of them are no longer worth their salt? If we had fluidity and sense of purpose within these companies, by now Malawi would have been far advanced compared to some of our neighbouring countries. The founding father of the Malawi nation, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, must be turning in his grave when one considers how some of the once powerful and thriving companies that were established during his tenure and heralded notable developmental initiatives have slipped deeply into oblivion; a complete shadow of their former selves.
Indeed, the contrasting fortunes of these companies should make it easier for Capital Hill to determine which of its babies are worth keeping or discarding. I am quite certain that most of those working in these SOEs are very familiar with The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)’s Growth-Share matrix which projects a company’s control of growth and market share on a graph. They must have already marked themselves as to whether they are stars, cash cows, dogs or problem child way before this reality check announced by Gwengwe was thrown at them.
I am in a good mood so I will not bother to repeat the naming and shaming but here is something puzzling that sets one off the rails. We are told some of the top shots in these struggling SOEs take pole positions when it comes to extravagance in these institutions and living lavishly, wasting the very revenue and profits that their companies have made or in the case of those who perpetually knock on Treasury’s door for subventions, that which comes out of taxpayers’ pockets. Little wonder the Finance Minister was bemused and I quote:
“Of particular concern is the issue that I also emphasised last year about the laxity and general entitlement for SOEs. This has been heightened by the continued misconception among SOEs that money generated and the profits or surpluses realized belong to them. This misconception of ‘it is our money’ has been demonstrated by the conduct of the concerned SOEs and I know them.”
There we are. Mr. Minister you better do something now since you have said you already know those that are wasting the hard-to-come-by resources instead of utilising the same to improve public service delivery or uplift the livelihood of Malawians in the best way possible.
Should we be surprised then that it is also SOEs that have topped the list of non-compliance to the Asset Declaration law? Obviously, one who is swimming in huge sums of money that rightfully is not entitled to but is meant for the benefit Malawians would not want to be caught out by the law. Certainly the law must take its course and this time, no one should stand in the way of the Office of the Director of Public Officers’ Declarations or security agents charged with enforcing what the law says on non-compliance.
To sum it up, authorities in these SOEs must stop taking Malawians for granted and get their act together by exhibiting exemplary behaviour, be it through their lifestyle or otherwise. I am of course not oblivious to the fact that one cannot be forced to live a champagne lifestyle on a soda drink budget when in their contracts or employment agreement, everything is fully provided for. Perhaps an audit of such matters in these SOEs would be the way to go, yes… no?
What a man the Silver coach is!
Unlike most of you, I for one I am enjoying the spectacle being put out by the new Silver Strikers coach and no, I absolutely do not condone unruly behaviour or violence but one can see that this new coach (is it Pieter De Jongh?) exudes real passion for the game of football and loves to tell it like it is and not call a spoon a spade.
I heard he was summoned by his bosses at Area 47 this week. I just hope they will not try to dim the light in this interesting soul. Let him calm his nerves but no one should try to muzzle him.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).