Opposition slams Peter Mutharika for ‘impunity’
Oppositionparties have accused President Peter Mutharika of compromising governance principles such as accountability and transparency and presiding over an administration of what they termed as ‘impunity’.
But Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi has said the opposition parties are afflicted by nostalgia.
The opposition parties said since Mutharika became president in 2014, there has been a record number of scandals bordering on impunity, corruption, waste, fraud and outright theft and embezzlement of public funds and property.
In a 17-point statement read out at a joint press briefing in Lilongwe yesterday, the parties faulted Mutharika’s challenge to the accusation that he leads a ‘government of shameless thieves’, yet the scandals are exactly what the touted public sector reforms were expected to put to an end to.
The briefing had Lazarus Chakwera, president of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Uladi Mussa (People’s Party), Sam Mpasu (New Labour Party), Newton Kambala (United Transformation Party), Mark Katsonga (Peoples Progressive Movement), Loveness Gondwe (National Rainbow Coalition) and George Nnesa (Malawi Forum for Unity and Development).
Umodzi Party president John Chisi and Alliance for Democracy president Enock Chihana are also signatories to the statement, but were not present during the press briefing.
Chakwera said there is nothing unusual in their union as it is not the first time they have come together in the fight against maladministration.
“This is not new and what we are doing is just a continuation of what we have been doing,” Chakwera said.
Among other issues, the leaders cited the release of alleged ‘thugs’ who hacked people during an opposition parties’ rally in Mzuzu last year; National Aids Commission funding organisations without an Aids agenda; a lack of arrests in the Malawi Electoral Commission warehouse fire in 2014; Lilongwe Water Board’s K10 million donation to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the murders of Issa Njauju and Robert Chasowa.
The parties also said the deaths of former Malawi Electoral Commission chairman Maxon Mbendera and George Bakuwa needed investigations.
In the statement, the parties also accused the government of selling Malawi Savings Bank as a solution to toxic loans that the government made to some senior DPP members.
The Addis Ababa Embassy scam, the hugely compromised Farm Input Subsidy Programme, the K4.9 billion Escom payout to some DPP members and Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority maize buying scandal are also matters of concern to the opposition parties.
The parties also accused Mutharika of saying and doing nothing on Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority awarding of dubious contracts to some DPP members, the disappearance of money meant for soldiers in peacekeeping operations and the failure to arrest, punish and prosecute scandal-hit former Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda.
They also said Malawians are surprised that criminality and impunity in public institutions remain unchecked and unpunished when Malawians rightly expect a former professor of law to be tough against any form of criminality and to respect both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution.
“Anywhere else, the ACB [Anti- Corruption Bureau), the police, the Auditor General, the Accountant General, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Courts would have been very busy over these criminal shenanigans. Not here! Clearly, some people are above the law. The credibility and integrity of our national institutions for the rule of law, accountability, transparency and checks and balances have been put into question,” the parties said.
The statement also said there is no clarity on the goals of the reforms, leaving one uncertain on whether the goal is to achieve efficiency gain, to cut expenditures, to reduce personnel or deliver specific programmes.
“For example, Junior Certificate of Education examinations were abolished, ostensibly to save money, without any regard as to what the effect would be on the quality of education or to what better use the saved money would be put,” the statement reads.
The political parties also said public sector reforms would not work until Mutharika ensures that top administrators are appointed on merit based on their education, training, competence, experience and professional integrity.
“They should also come through competitive processes rather than on political or tribal reasons,” the parties said.
But Dausi, who is also government’s spokesperson, fought back, insisting that the problem with MCP and other opposition parties is ‘nostalgia’.
“They are still thinking of the old ways of doing things. But they must know that the Constitution changed. In democracy, we have institutions that are responsible for institutional administration and investigations. Do they want us to be police officers or courts?” Dausi said.
He challenged the opposition parties to enumerate all their concerns and use the due process of the law for solutions.
“They should not expect the president to be using his powers to detain people,” he said.
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