Blues’ Orators, with one week to go before this year says adieu, I have a request. Before you begin considering my request, kindly allow me to explain the circumstances.
In April 2017, President Arthur Peter Mutharika and his buddies convened a National Conference on Corruption.
Highly distinguished Speakers from near and far were invited. These speakers did not disappoint. They approached the conference with the gravity it deserved.
The Speaker of Malawi Parliament for instance, wishfully thinking that the government was for once serious about fighting corruption; bravely read the riot act to Mutharika.
“Corruption is about people and their mind-set. Appropriate laws and effective policies will definitely help, but unless our collective mind-set transforms significantly, our fight against corruption will be akin to chasing the wind.”
No one has ever been this blunt to Mutharika right in his face. Some choose their words carefully while others only crown him as the ‘Prince of Thieves’ in his absence. But not Richard Msowoya.
“On several occasions,” Msowoya continued, “I have laboured with this question: Is our fight against corruption premised on a concrete conviction that this is a vice we must deal with or it is simply a make-believe exercise to appear progressive within the international community and, therefore, be able to access donor aid and foreign investment which we can also subject to more corrupt practices?”
Driving the point home, he said:
“I am asking this question because I get the sense that there is no profound acknowledgement of the existence of this evil among us. For example, I get worried when we start rationalising allegations of corruption, by suggesting that we need to distinguish perceptions from the reality. I fully understand that it is unfair and frustrating to be perceived as corrupt when you are not, but we must accept that there can never be perceptions of corruption where there is no corruption.”
He then schooled Mutharika on what to do:
“The best way to deal with perceptions of corruption, therefore, is by resolutely facing corruption head on,” pleading with Mutharika and his cohorts to ‘repent’ their futile and pathetic attempts at splitting hairs by proposing an imaginary dichotomy between theft and corruption.
“For me, theft and corruption have the same grounding – a lack of respect for systems, a lack of respect for what is not yours. You cannot be corrupt without having the mentality of a thief and the two have to be fought together!”
He then proposed several practical steps e.g. overhauling the legal framework for the fight against corruption; liberating the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) from the clutches of the political elite; and ending the practice of dubious public appointments based on appointees’ proximity, be it political or tribal, to Mutharika and his henchmen.
“We can also not do away with perceptions of corruption if, as it so often happens, the National Assembly makes recommendations or passes motions aimed at enhancing the fight against corruption and the Executive does nothing about them.”
“It’s not long ago that we had a Private Member Motion in Parliament aimed at freeing the ACB from external pressure and influence – but this was, unfortunately in my view, defeated. The questions that linger in people’s minds are: What are we afraid of? How does an independent ACB threaten anyone?”
Eight months on, no single recommendation from the April Conference has been implemented. Not even a report – the logical conclusion of any conference, has been produced. Zamanyazi ndithu. A national disgrace!
This has prompted the European Union (EU) Ambassador to Malawi, Marchel Gerrmann, to demand – as a matter of “high priority” – the release of the April 2017 high-level National Anti- Corruption Conference report.
“We are still awaiting the official report of this conference [National Anti-Corruption Conference], including recommendations for action. We call on the government to follow up as a matter of high priority,” Gerrmann said in a speech during an event focusing on performance evaluation results of ministries and departments.
In an interview later, Germann said the report is critical as it will drive stakeholders’ endeavours to implement the recommendations from the April conference.
The envoy’s demand follows rampant reports that the Peter Mutharika administration is, from head to toe, mired in corruption.
• Fact: The National Audit Office report for June 30 2016 has revealed systemic and systematic failures by controlling officers in implementing and enforcing the public financial management act.
• Sickening Fact: The report reveals that K1 billion couldn’t be accounted for at the Ministry of Health, after being paid to ghosts.
• Sad Fact: It further says other payments were made using rates that were not approved.
• Big Fact: About K265 million was paid out in allowances to officers who aren’t bona fide civil servants and K399 million was paid out to people that cannot be traced whereas K61 million was paid out to non-deserving staff.
• Stinking Facts: Then there is Chaponda’s Zambian maize procurement scandal and the Chief Secretary’s K64 million office furniture imbroglio and many other scandals rocking the Mutharika administration.
Not surprisingly, the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, had no immediate response to the envoy’s request.
My humble request therefore is that you and I should observe a minute of silence, not for the many people perishing due to lack of basic drugs and equipment in our hospitals while our hard-paid taxes are getting mercilessly looted; nope.
For this, a minute wouldn’t suffice, we would need hours if not days of silence.
Rather, I want us to observe a minute of silence in embarrassment on behalf of President Mutharika and his cabinet who are incapable of feeling embarrassed for their brazen debauchery.
It’s a pity that the April 2017 anti-corruption conference was, as many had feared, yet another episode of executive tomfoolery when it is a fact that with corruption, our motherland sinks deeper into abject poverty and the poor suffer even more.
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