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Ifmis is down, no good news for Malawi

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My charismatic colleague, Rebecca Chimjeka this week published a big story in The Daily Times.

I had a talk with her that the story deserved all attention because of its significance. I doubt if it got any.

This is a story that should shake the nation more than the recent earthquake in Mexico, this is a story that should be the talk of the day at State House, Capital Hill and other corridors of power including in the pavements of our donors.

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This is a story that should make all of us tremble with fear, this is a story that affects all Malawians, this is a story that should be taken seriously, this story reminds me of Cashgate.

The story is about the break-down of integrated financial management and information system (ifmis) three weeks ago.

This is a chilling story.

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The government should take this issue seriously taking into account the past experience when over K30 billion was looted from public coffers in just a space of two years or so.

I pray that people at Capital Hill do not take advantage of the situation to abuse public money, to steal our money for the sake of their bellies not for the good of the country.

I have read a comment from Ministry of Finance spokesperson David Sado, I should be frank here, I am not convinced, maybe he does not want to alarm the nation.

What I would want to know is, why has it taken three weeks before Ifmis is fixed, what really happened for the system to be down, how is the government or to be more specific controlling officers ensuring that public money is not going down the drain?

In addition, when is the system going to be fixed? Why is it taking long to fix it, how is public money expenditure monitored in the absence of the Ifmis?

Well, I have dozens of questions on the matter but due to limited space, I cannot put them all here.

But this is an issue our good old Goodall Gondwe, the Finance Minister and his Principal Secretary Ben Botolo should look into.

In fact, I expected the ministry of Finance to issue a statement on the matter, not today but three weeks ago when the system just broke down.

In the absence of the statement, I take it that government officials at Capital Hill are taking a laissez faire attitude on a very serious matter that has potential to bring the country down, economically.

The government should be open on such issues. The government should come out in the open and tell us whether the delay in the payment of salaries for civil servants last month was as a result of the breakdown of Ifmis.

We voted for a government which is transparent and accountable to Malawians, therefore we expect the Democratic Progressive Party-led government to walk the talk on the issues of transparency and accountability.

For those who might not remember what happened during the infamous K30 billion Cashgate in 2013, here is some back ground.

The Ifmis was marred with technological loopholes which made it prone to abuse and loss of money.

Unidentified users were capable of logging into the system, remotely, while others had multiple identities.

Negligence on basic system security procedures and lack of data safeguards made the system easy to manipulate by fraudsters.

Those behind the system, which relies heavily on the overall network infrastructure, failed to study and establish the network specifications required to meet Ifmis standard operations before its launch, hence the frequent failures.

This is not from my brain but according to a recent inquiry that the office of Auditor General and Price Waterhouse Coopers.

You may now understand why I have the fears after the Ifmis broke down.

My fear is that after the system break down;some ill-intentioned civil servants can manipulate the system again and steal billions of money literally leaving the public coffers with no single penny.

After these notorious thieves are caught, the state goes on to spend huge sums of money to prosecute the suspects, worsening the financial standing of the government.

This is why I believe the government should act with speed to rectify this problem.

I am not worried that after the system is down, some parliamentary committee meetings have been suspended because I know that they can still meet after the problems have been rectified.

However, the problem comes in when I think of thieves who want to dip in from public coffers without authority from powers that be, leaving Malawians poorer than ever before.

As soon as the system is up and running, the Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa should come in immediately to audit in order to get to the bottom of the matter.

If Malawi has to move forward, steadily, we need to do right things at the right time.

We do n ’ t ne e d Mr Kamphasa to come in and do his job three years after the incident. Then, he will not get the intended results, his work would yield nothing.

I love my Malawi, I love my country, and this is why I always wish things were done perfectly so that the country is a right place to live in, both for me and other poor people.

Memories are still fresh how our leaders in the past ransacked the public purse, with impunity and disregard to the law because they thought they were the law themselves.

I do not have to mention names here but these issues are in the media and readily available for free.

We all know that people get into the government with nothing, literally nothing but come out with mansions with swimming pools and all luxury gadgets you can think of.

Fix the Ifmis now!

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