This circus has run long enough. We have kept going round in circles without making any headway in as far as riding this country of corruption is concerned. The stories emanating from the fuel deals issue where some purported backdoor suppliers were allegedly being pushed in make some sad reading.
As a common man, you just cannot help but to pity yourself because that hard-earned money which you contribute to the public purse via taxes is seemingly used as leverage, time and again, by the ‘big boys’ in public institutions who play around during procurement of goods and services to land some ‘goodies’.
We were, again this week, treated to stark revelations by former deputy CEO of National Oil Company (Nocma) when she appeared before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee (Pac) which had summoned her to explain the contents of her purported resignation letter.
Buluma told Pac that the Nocma Board, whose chairperson is none other than the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba, had been piling pressure on her to take on board some suppliers that initially were not on the company’s list of firms that had qualified to be awarded fuel supply contracts.
She claimed Zamba was pressurising her to give a fuel importation contract to a Nigerian whom she simply called ‘Chief’, in addition to four other companies.
Buluma told the committee that the SPC, who used to call her Nantchathu, instructed her to ensure that she gives a substantial amount of business to ‘Chief’, who allegedly is an agent of a South African oil and gas company.
In her tell-it-all interaction with Pac, she pointed out that she was surprised one time when she had been called for a fuel meeting, which also had the Mera CEO in attendance, to discover that in the meeting room were also the country’s Immigration Chief, an official from the Ministry of Trade, Secretary to the Treasury and some interested individuals who allegedly had wanted to supply fuel and had no qualms in getting payment in local currency, at a time the country was grappling with the fuel crisis, which had been compounded by the forex shortage.
Just a bit of caution before we go deep into what Buluma had spewed during her appearance. It must be borne in mind that the former acting CEO of Nocma herself might not be wholly without a stain, considering the fact that she was not proactive in that, for all the fresh claims she is making, now that she is out of the institution, she never bothered during her tenure to raise a red flag or better yet, take them up with institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) or the Malawi Police Service.
Many would recall how swift she had acted in a previous matter which is still in court that cost a former cabinet minister his job but in this instance, she obviously did not act, which somehow raises a bit of suspicion as her allegations have come out when her contract issues, as per the determination of the country’s Ombudsman, were in the limelight.
But you can only disregard her allegations at your own peril because, how then do you explain the fact that the very same person she has now crossed paths with (the SPC), had leapt to her defence only a month or two ago after the Ombudsman had recommended her firing? Could it be, perhaps, that someone was aware that they might open this fresh can of worms? I will leave you to be the better judge.
Now as the finger-pointing and counter accusations continue, I just wanted us to consider the bigger picture and what these developments mean for our efforts in battling corruption. Much as I would not want to arbitrary lay an accusation on anyone that he or she is corrupt, the fact of the matter is that corruption is happening at a deeper level in most public institutions and private entities are no saints either. While most politicians would hoodwink us during campaign that they have the best interests of the common man at heart, it is sad that selfish interests take pole position once they have a grip on power and do not even try to deny it!
It is time to clean house in as far as dealing with corruption in this country is concerned because quite frankly, we have had enough of the circus.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).