By Deogratias Mmana:
There are growing calls for the Government to reconsider its funding allocation towards the governance sector, with critics saying it is diverting from its commitment to fight corruption.
But Minister of Information, who is also government spokesperson, Gospel Kazako has downplayed the accusations, arguing that they are coming because of inadequate attention to the policies that government is advancing.
Finance Minister Felix Mlusu last week allocated K37.9 billion to the governance and rule of law sector, down from K52.8 billion from last financial year.
“Madam Speaker, the Governance and Rule of Law sector has been allocated K37.9 billion, which is 0.4 percent of GDP and representing 1.9 percent of the entire budget.
“The provision will cater for wages and salaries in the sector and operations of oversight institutions including the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Office of the Ombudsman, Law Commission and Malawi Human Rights Commission,”Mlusu said.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and a governance expert, Collen Kaluwa, have both faulted government for the downward allocation, arguing it defeats the commitment to fight corruption and promote human rights.
HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence described it as a diversion by government from its commitment to fighting corruption among others.
“The figure is on the lower side and it is a departure from the commitment that Tonse government made in the fight against corruption.
“Actually the figure is much lower than what was approved last time. If we are to make real impact on the fight against corruption, we need real investments and can address the challenges these institutions have been facing including the human resource,” Trapence said.
On his part Kaluwa, who is a university lecturer based in Blantyre, said the figure is not realistic in terms of fighting corruption and promotion of governance and rule of law.
“They are squeezing these organisations such that only very few cases will be investigated and concluded,” he said.
He added: This is not about political will. It is about the rope of justice catching up with them. It is a case of shielding political allies. It is a case of setting a trap to kill a rat and it eventually catches you or an ally.”
Kaluwa proposed that the governance bodies should hunt for additional resources from other organisations.
But Kazako said the Tonse-led government is not backtracking on its resolve to fight corruption.
“Our resolve to cracking down corruption and abuse of public resources is as well energized as ever. Corruption is one big challenge we need to decisively deal with if we are t obtain the 2063 vision of a better Malawi,” said Kazako.
He added: “This is a clear manifestation of inadequate attention some NGOs and other governance commentators as they have shown that they are not aware this is a nine months budget.
“What it means is that the resources allocated are for nine months and not one year as has always been the case.”
ACB spokesperson Egrita Ndala said in an interview that out of the approved. K5,231,853,509.49 for 2020/2021 budget, Treasury funded the bureau K4,566,451,907.46.
She said for this year, the bureau’s budget, which is yet to be funded, is K3,971,827,305.00.
Asked to comment on the implications of the deficit, Ndala said: “The bureau understands that Treasury funds MDAs [Ministries, Departments and Agencies] after collecting taxes, therefore it does not expect the government to fund it from what has not been collected.”
When it appeared before the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament on Thursday, the bureau disclosed that it has 852 corruption complaints to be handled and processed with 314 cases to be investigated and 60 cases to be prosecuted.
In his 2020/2021 national budget, Mlusu allocated K52.8 billion to the governance and rule of law sector. This was 0.7 percent of GDP and 3.0 percent of the entire budget.