It is tough living in Covid times
There are conspiracy theories being thrown around in light of the news that Malawi will shortly be receiving its consignment of Covid-19 vaccine, AstraZeneca. It is sad that the nay-sayers appear to have forgotten just how bad the situation has been lately when lives have been lost to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now is the time for pragmatic action and not to be deliberately spreading information that would instill fear and panic in those that are eager to receive the vaccine. We have been receiving vaccines throughout the course of our life, for crying out loud! Why should the current one be any different? I say let us all go file in line to get the jabs once the vaccines are in.
I am pretty sure our health experts are not jumping into the bandwagon blindly; they should be working overtime by now to ascertain the exact position with all the news coming in; South Africa having second thoughts about the same vaccine that Malawi wants to try, Israel apparently making positive strides with its own vaccine. Certainly these are tough times to be alive as difficult decisions have to be made at all levels.
Over and above that, we all need to be spreading some love and not animosity in these precarious times we are living in. Mankind is already faced with this precarious situation and the last thing we need is to be fighting each other. The scenario is too delicate such that today you can be enjoying a great time with your friend or family and the next; they are gone, just like that; so, let us try as much as possible to be on good terms with everyone.
To substantive matters now on the Covid-19 subject. Obviously, the question everybody wants the authorities to address is along the same lines of the order by President Lazarus Chakwera last Sunday, regarding how K6.2 billion which Treasury released for the Covid-19 battle, has been used. If, for a second, you thought that those claiming that accountability and transparency are simply non-existent in the public sector were high on something, you better think again. If ever there is one thing that most civil servants specialise in, then it is ‘chewing’ public money (yes I said it) and where that is not possible, they will even go to the extent of grabbing other public assets (remember that story a few years back about how some computers and vehicles for a donor-funded project in government disappeared from Capital Hill?). This is why I am not surprised at all that since the K6.2 billion was dished out, not a single person bothered to account for each tambala spent until somebody decided to stir the waters.
It also kind of brings back nostalgic memories of the previous regime when, having vehemently refused that no one was ‘chewing’ public money, nature decided to take its course and expose some former Cabinet ministers busy discussing how to capture the Covid-19 funds; whether as just allowances or to top them up with fuel allowance. This K6.2 billion is a balloon which the Tonse Alliance -led administration needed to deflate at all cost before it blows in their face. I hope pubic officials realise that the clock is ticking in as far as the question of accountability on the Covid-19 funds is concerned.
So, while someone who tested positive to Covid-19 and was being treated at Kamuzu Central Hospital was pleading with the top guns in the public health care sector overseeing the Covid-19 battle to at least ensure that they procure more Non Invasive Positive Pressure Ventilation (NIPPVs) tools, money was tucked away somewhere within the system, or God forbid, being ‘chewed’ by someone while lives were being lost in hospitals. Somebody must account for the mess and should be ashamed for the pain and misery caused to innocent Malawians.
Well, I will not be too quick to judge since, after all, the President earlier in the week through his Press Secretary, communicated that the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 was scrutinising each report, line by line and interrogating the head of each cluster in order to ascertain ‘apparent irregularities’. We are told there are 13 clusters in total.
But, now, how on earth does someone go ahead and approve another K17 billion for the same initiative before the K6.2 billion earlier disbursed is accounted for? I think our Treasury Department also has some serious issues that need to be seriously looked into. Our Parliament deserves a pat on the back for jumping in quickly by ordering the Auditor General to do a quick audit on the K6.2 billion and, hopefully after that, a similar exercise will be sanctioned to track the K17 billion.
Eish, it is tough bwana living in these Covid times.
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).