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Poor service delivery is catalyst for corruption

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Corruption is the worst cancer eating our economy, retarding development, throwing standards to dogs and eventually driving millions of our people into abject poverty. A few that self-enrich themselves, living an opulent life, are denying millions more citizens of the country the opportunity to access goods and services that the looted money could have been directed towards.

It is appalling that we all know and agree that corruption is bad yet we do nothing. It is appalling that we know many a people involved in corruption and we praise them. It is appalling that we take part in corruption and take pride in it. It may seem that those who seem to be talking against corruption are purely because they do not have the opportunity to corrupt or to be corrupted. Corruption in Malawi has become a silent norm.

Most people attribute the high levels of corruption to low salaries but that is highly missing the point. The most corrupt in the country are the rich and their corruption deals with millions and billions of kwachas. These are people living a five-star life style and yet they are the worst thieves, depriving the poor from accessing vital services. Were the Cashgate people among the poorest in the country? Certainly, they were that class that takes pride and pleasure sipping Blue label Chivas beer at the most exotic hotels in the country and beyond.

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Calling a spade a spade, the greatest catalyst of corruption in Malawi is poor service delivery most especially in public institutions. In as much as public institutions have mission and vision statements, the level of service delivery is appalling. Take for instance the immigration department. The image of the department is that it is a corrupt institution such that some people believe that to have your passport processed you have to palm oil hands of some officers. It is not a hidden secret. You see people walk into immigration offices, sneaking into some offices and coming out with their passports in hand.

Not long ago, it could take one all day long at the immigration department all just to process paperwork. People do not have patience to be on queues that long. What would stop them corrupting an immigration officer if that will shorten their stay at the immigration department so that they can go and do other profitable businesses.

Take the issue of land, there is no process as bureaucratic, boring and laborious than trying to process a land title deed. You will have to visit the ministry of lands offices till you get tired. Those that palm oil officers at the ministry are the ones whose title deeds are processed in the fastest time possible. The ministry does not have a known timeframe let alone presentable process that it undertakes to provide a title deed. The issue even stretches to plots in our cities. There is a big mess in terms of plots allocation as people who have no interest in corrupting lands officials are not accorded appropriate documentation pertaining to their plots. This is what people in all locations in our cities know and we are only eloquent in silence.

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Isn’t the tiresome process of getting a driving licence at the ever congested Roads Traffic and Safety Services (RTSS) a good niche for corruption? It would take one all day long or even beyond just to have a vehicle inspected and tested for road worthiness. It is not surprising therefore that most vehicles plying on the roads of Malawi run on Certificates of Fitness that were provided without the vehicles being tested. Why should one bother staying all day long at the RTSS for vehicle certification when the famous dobadoba shave the courtesy of bringing your COF right at your doorstep without requiring one to spend all day long awaiting for the vehicle to be tested? More so when you take into account the seemingly ever-offline network at the RTSS which seems to go online easily with dobadobas-delivered documents, what would stop one from using the dobadobas.

Poor service delivery is our fertile breeding ground for corruption. The most painful thing is that we pay corrupt officers for which the government pays salaries every month to render services to us. What this country needs is significant reforms in the public service, the level of service delivery has to be improved with checks and balances.

When you see a press release from the Malawi Defence Force advising people that some fraudsters are milking people’s money on the pretext of recruiting them to join the MDF then we have to realise that our levels of corruption and fraud in the country have reached worst dimensions. When you see Escom issuing a press release informing people to stop bribing Escom officials in order to have their electricity connections fast tracked then we have to know that we are in trouble. As long as those bribing officers are having electricity connected faster than those who wait for the real process, what would dissuade other potential customers from bribing the officers for fast track connections? Escom should then learn that its process is unnecessarily cumbersome. Who approves materials for those that fast track the connections?

All this article has articulated is but a mere tip of an iceberg. The private sector is also corrupt hit. Many issues of payments being made for unsupplied materials, goods and services are a manifestation that we have allowed corruption to become a part of us.

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