Malawians have been trained to believe things without questioning. They have been brainwashed into believing that corruption is only when it involves a civil servant. Why do we assume that corruption can only happen when there is a civil servant involved? Who told us this lie? When did the concept of corruption change? I thought the concept of corruption was wider, much wider, than the theft of public money by civil servants.
The original concept of corruption has always been wider. It is more than just the taking and receiving of bribes, stealing of public funds and other forms of financial rascality. Corruption comes from the verb “corrupt”. A quick look at the dictionary will define the verb “corrupt” as to debase, to make putrid, to destroy the purity of and to pervert. I know that it has been easy to define the financial and economic dimension of corruption. Even this dimension is selectively applied.
This takes me direct to an institution and some of its members in Malawi that have given themselves the moral high ground as champions of the fight against corruption. I am talking of the Malawi Parliament. A couple of months ago, it was revealed that in Malawi, Constituency Development Fund (CDF), yes, the fund that is in the hands of Members of Parliament (MPs) has been widely abused. How then do we expect an institution that is at the heart of public resources abuse to lead the fight against corruption?
Is it a surprise that Parliament’s actions on corruption have been politically charged? In November 2017, it was reported in the media that, in Rumphi alone, millions of kwacha in the 2016/2017 fiscal year were spent on unnamed projects or on expenditures whose materials were not known. It was estimated that out of the K10 million allocated to Rumphi West Constituency, close to K6 million could not be verified properly. In Rumphi Central, close to K5 million of the allocated K11 million was unaccounted for and in Rumphi East Constituency, close to K9 million of the K11 million allocated was suspected to have been misused. The Nation of November 3 2017 reported these figures. According to the paper, these were the findings of a group of non-governmental organisations called Rumphi Civil Society Network. I am focusing on this source of information because this comes hot on the heels of Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe’s revelation in June 2017 that 20 MPs misappropriated K80 million of CDF in 16 district councils.
The irony is that one of the MPs who has taken it upon himself to be the champion of fighting corruption is Rumphi East MP Kamlepo Kalua who is now being accused by civil society organisations that he cannot verify and justify over 88.5 percent of the 2016/2017 fiscal year CDF amounting to K10.8 million. If Parliament is indeed serious about the fight against corruption, it should make public the names of the 20 MPs who have diverted CDF for personal use.
Step back and think about it, this is the same Parliament, the same MPs who not long ago almost derailed the national budget with their demand to increase the CDF from K18 million to K30 million. It was only when a compromise of K23 million was offered by the Minister of Finance that the MPs were able to move in their parliamentary deliberations on the budget.
This is another definition of corruption. One can interpret their desire to increase the CDF to a higher value as a deliberate action that was meant to pervert and debase the constituents’ entitlement. Corruption, in this inclusive sense, pertains to any action deliberately intended to either debase an institution or prevent it from functioning appropriately to achieve the noble objective for which it was created in the first place.
CDF was created to bring development to the people in Malawi, those that elected these MPs to be in their privileged positions. Instead, it has been reported that some of these MPs have used CDF to buy top-of-the-range vehicles for their spouses, girlfriends and concubines. Even in areas where the funds have been used, there are questions to be answered. How did the projects go? Were they finished on time? What is the quality of the structures? Were the various structures completed? Can we be serious and fight corruption with integrity, zeal and honesty? Otherwise, this phoney war against corruption will lead us nowhere!
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