While Malawians are taking all the precautions to avoid contracting coronavirus such as getting the Oxford- AstraZeneca jabs, sanitising of hands, observing social distance and wearing prescribed face masks, most people were astounded to hear in the course of the week about a mess within the procurement process for the face masks. We are told some ‘suppliers’ were left grinning from ear to ear after pocketing millions of Kwacha, a tab picked by taxpayers, and yet at the end of the day, failed to account for the face masks as an audit by Graham Carr showed that some of them either supplied less than agreed amounts while others allegedly did not bother to service the tender at all after winning the bid.
This is just one of the many examples that typify the happenings in the public sector where everyone is, first and foremost, looking out for his or her interest and the rest comes later. Since the mentioned firm, Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST), has said it will come up with a response at an appropriate time, we will treat the findings as allegations, for now, but as most people will tell you, there is usually more material that sticks when unearthed by an audit and no wonder some individuals have been finger-pointed in the same.
The examples are just too many of people who have taken the ‘walk of shame’ for a dishonourable service in the public sector.
But then, how do you even begin to think of pulling a scheme on a mask deal, looking at the severity of Covid-19 in the country? As I said, we will treat those individuals and companies named as mere suspects since everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, it is high time government did something serious because, and I am sure I speak for many of us, Malawians are simply tired of hearing stories to do with embezzlement and fraud, day in and day out. First, it was the same Covid-19 issue but with a whole different dimension when we heard news that K6.2 billion was mismanaged and we saw some district commissioners, who are now back in office, being suspended. Then there has been talk about K17 billion Covid-19 funds yet to be audited and now this mask scheme…when will it all end?
We need to start loving our country, ladies and gentlemen. We cannot continue looting, pilfering and pretend that everything is okay yet thousands of people are struggling due to Covid-19. People are being tossed left and right by law enforcers for failing to wear face masks and yet, when it mattered most, somebody, whether at CMST or elsewhere, deprived Malawians a chance to access a face mask through the crookedness exposed by the audit.
Other than that, it felt good seeing people across the country turning out in large numbers for the Covid-19 vaccination exercise; some to get their first jabs while others were getting a second one. According to some of the frontline personnel, their portion of the 192,000 AstraZeneca vaccines was just enough to last three days, looking at the overwhelming turnout by communities.
Hopefully, there will be more vaccines coming in, if what health authorities are telling us is anything to go by. I gather we will even receive a consignment of Johnson & Johnson as well as Pfizer vaccines; bring it on, is all we can say. It was pleasing to hear Minister of Health, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, confirming the other day that government had not taken a back seat as most of us had initially thought as it has set aside some funds with which to procure more vaccines. Be that as it may, it is never pleasant to be at the mercy of the donor, as has been the case with the Covid-19 vaccines; and in no way I’m I trying to demean the critical role our development partners have played in helping Malawi to get some vaccines through the Covax facility.
But let us continue to adhere to all prescribed preventive measures because it looks like the pandemic might take a while before it is eradicated.
Feedback on ‘Take counsel of the wise’
I was rummaging in my mailbox and came across Diliza Nyasulu’s note on the ‘Take counsel of the wise’ entry which I did a couple of weeks ago. He wrote:
That’s well written with a lot of humanity. I hope our readers read this. We wonder what really they discuss at cabinet level. Are there any targets given and assessed? You have reminded them of the very first things to do and yet they don’t do. We wish them well but they think we are jealous of them when we advise. Only time will tell. Time heals the wound.
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).