There are a lot of activities going on in this country. Most of them border on governance, politics and crime and more keep unfolding, even before one event expires.
Of course, it is expected that after a new government comes in, there should be movements in public systems. Arrests are not even strange.
But what is particularly distinctive about the present case is the huge numbers of people who have been picked in relation to the misappropriation of one chunk of money—K6.2 billion meant for Covid-19 response.
Dozens remain in police custody, with the law enforcers’ spokesperson James Kadadzera indicating that more will be picked in relation to the misappropriation, which was confirmed by an investigative audit which National Audit Office carried out.
In essence, the massive plunder of funds earmarked for very crucial activities— responding to a crisis that had severely battered our national psyche—is just a tip of the iceberg in terms of how public officers dip their fingers into the public purse, sometimes in consonance with businesspeople.
At least, in the K6.2 billion matter, information is out there for everyone to make conclusions regarding the calibre of people managing public funds.
It is heartrending to even imagine that someone could divert into their pockets funds meant for responding to a contagion that has claimed over a thousand lives. At a time patients were gasping for oxygen in our hospitals and isolation centres, some individuals decided to share among themselves money set aside to meet these patients’ needs.
Such inhuman acts should be treated with the disapproval that they deserve. It might not even be preposterous to suggest that the plunder contributed to some deaths related to the virus in hospitals and isolation centres.
While it should be stressed that everyone who has been arrested in relation to the misappropriation is innocent until proven guilty, there are all indications that money was abused, misused or blatantly stolen.
It is only necessary that whoever is hooked up in the embezzlement faces the long arm of the law.
For a long time, Malawians have been talking about correcting the way things are done in the government. Those who are aware of the shenanigans some public officers employ when handling public resources have laid bare the rot that exists in ministries, departments and agencies.
In fact, the K6.2 billon issue could have remained unknown if we continued living our normal lives. Its exposures should now give the authorities hints about how public resources are used.
For President Lazarus Chakwera, who has continuously talked about “clearing the rubble”, the Covid-19 funds issue presents him with a good opportunity of where to focus on.
Additionally, like the President himself said, there is a dire need to extend such investigative audits to past periods so that whoever abused public funds, even five years ago, should pay for their actions.
Already, there are audit reports which clearly outline queries in relation to the use of public finances. These can act as crucial starting points in investigations into how every public penny was used previously.
Well, it is sad that people are being arrested for their alleged involvement in the misappropriation of Covid-19 funds, but what else should have happened to them?
If we are really serious about ending corruption and theft of public money, we must not smile at those who engage in the vices.
The arrests should act as lessons to others who still believe they can abuse taxpayers’ money and get away with it. Funds in the budget or elsewhere should go where they are required, not in anyone’s pocket.
We cannot keep talking about corruption and theft being endemic in Malawi as if there were no ways of ending them. It is just a matter of employing the law where necessary and cracking the whip on those who fail to abide by it.
There is all evidence that Malawi can be redeemed from its current status of abject poverty if resources that it generates or receives were all put to good use.
The good thing is that something is happening now. What is important is for the momentum to be sustained until all the bad apples are thrown out of the public system