Do not get surprised when you see some of your friends in town pulling up in expensive cars, erecting state-of-the art buildings, having breakfast in France and then supper in Motengo Bay, flashing money like nobody’s business; they perhaps might have discovered own ‘gold’ in the very civil service where most of you work, only that you were not (clever enough?) adventurous enough to risk it.
What am I on about, you say. Well, the story this week about K77 million disappearing in thin air at Lilongwe District Council offices got me so infuriated that I had no choice but to wear my thinking cap and, once I am in that mode, all possible theories are laid on the table and the one I just impressed upon you was coming top of my list. This is how bad the scenario is when it comes to government funds and other property, where a whole K77 million, meant for a social cash transfer scheme, can just disappear into thin air.
Do not be fooled into thinking that this happens at the district council level only. Remember how Cashgate was unearthed back in 2013 at Capital Hill where some employees had stashed loads of Kwacha in the trunks of their ‘getaway’ cars? No one is safe in as far as the handling of public money is concerned.
I bet even President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima (who champions the Public Sector Reforms) are aware of this, which is why they made that impromptu drop-in at one of the offices at Capital Hill which is key to the processing of salaries of civil servants after observing that government employees had not yet been ‘sorted’ by the end of the month for their toils.
Fellow countrymen, people are struggling out there just to access a routine service from public institutions simply because some officers are too pig-headed and, in other cases, funds meant for the benefit of the ordinary person are embezzled. Just look around; why do you think some areas have remained underdeveloped and infrastructure such as roads, hospitals has been in poor state for many years?
Going back to the K77 million social cash transfer saga, one cannot help but wonder how community members captured as having ‘received’ their dues ended up being skipped while in other cases we are told that a double entry for a single individual was being made. Without wishing to sound judgemental, something fishy was certainly happening and someone somehow should provide answers or face the music. Something concrete should come up from this audit expose.
Did we not hear the other day someone saying district council officials will no longer be treated with kid gloves as was the case previously, when their only noticeable reprimand/punishment used to be transfer from one duty station to another? Well, this latest episode provides a litmus test for the powers-that-be on how they will act, should it be proven that, indeed, someone was reckless or negligent, hence the disappearance of the K77 million. After all the years that we invested in implementing the decentralisation programme, it seems we still have a lot of loose ends in our district councils that have to be attended to, if we are to stop the public purse from leaking.
Remembering September 11
It was exactly on this day, almost 20 years ago, when the whole world was left in shock after 19 militants associated with Islamic Extremist Group Al Qaeda struck four targets in the United States, including the twin towers that housed the World Trade Centre. Over 3,000 people (not just Americans) lost their lives. I was a mere student at the time doing my Form Four (or is it ‘form form’?) at a boarding school somewhere in Blantyre and, for a moment, I thought the ‘end of the world’ was nigh.
I have brought this up just to serve as a timely reminder to everyone that terrorism has no room in this world and we must denounce it. I am happy that we (meaning Malawians) continue to shine because of our reputation as friendly people. The world, now more than ever, needs peace and tranquility, at a time we are devastated by a pandemic among us.
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).