When President Lazarus Chakwera sanctioned his Vice President, Saulos Chilima, to review government systems of procurement, contracts and allowances, it was clear he wanted a cataclysmic overhaul of elements that are significantly blocking this country’s development.
The President made the directive in the context of the plunder of part of the K6.2 billion that government had set aside for responding to the Covid pandemic.
It has always been clear that there was and still is that deep desire in Chakwera to see the public service reformed to levels where everyone working there conducts themselves in line with the highest levels of integrity and diligence.
And he will obviously act on the recommendations contained in the review report that Chilima submitted to him last week.
However, it appears we would instantly want everything to be laid bare— even before proper scrutiny has been done.
While it is true that whatever is contained in the report might be in public interest, no one can conclusively state that there are no elements which might be too sensitive to be shoved into the public domain.
In any case, the President is the one who sanctioned the exercise that produced the report and will act on the recommendations as he deems it necessary.
The fact that he publicly announced that such an exercise should be conducted does not automatically imply he should lay the report on public tables just like that.
Like others have said before, acting on the recommendations is solely at the discretion of the President. Thus, he needs time to ingest what has been presented before him and, perhaps, seek further clarifications from those who did the work and other advisors at his disposal.
Various experts have posited that the drastic measures that are obviously being proposed in the review report—because that is what the President asked for— might need further policies and law amendments before they are implemented.
All the areas that Chakwera asked that they should be reviewed have regulations guiding their place in the public sector. Such regulations are not illegal but might need some adjustments so that the ultimate purpose of the review is achieved.
Additionally, some of the recommendations in the report may be vigorously resisted by some public officers who have been benefiting from what is expected to be overhauled.
There might even be legal fights in implementing the recommendations.
That is why the President needs time—and not pressure—to look into the review and how it should be acted upon.
While it may even be necessary to make the contents of the report, or part of it, public, doing so now may pile unnecessary pressure on the presidency which will have to be paying attention to views of the public.
One might argue that the views of the public, even after getting hold of the report, should not matter to the President, but isn’t the whole aim of pushing him to release the report to check how he is acting on it?
There is no harm in being a little patient while the President analyses the report and makes appropriate decisions in terms of the recommendations therein.
Perhaps, the challenge that is thriving in this country is that there are others who push certain agendas whenever something happens or is supposed to be happening between Chakwera and Chilima.
They strive to pit the two against each other in straightforward situations where each party is supposed to make decisions according to what is required of the office he occupies.
There are sections of society that are advancing the ‘who is superior’ agenda and will hide behind holding the government accountable and pushing for transparency when, in reality, they are just being political.
This is not to say the President should not be accountable to Malawians, but piling unnecessary pressure on him even when it is clear he needs time to accomplish certain tasks does not amount to holding him accountable.
Overhauling the public service is not an easy task. These ultimate reforms need patience and determination, not political interests that some quarters appear to be advancing.
Thus, there is no need to rush with the report to the public simply because someone is pushing for that. The ultimate decision to do so will be made by the President when and if he feels it is necessary to do so.
What is most important is for the nation to know what will be done in terms of overhauling the public sector so that it should fully and competently serve Malawians.