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Where angels fear to tread

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Puludzu

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma is rightly being praised but not for doing anything that is extraordinary or out of this world.

Rather, she is being praised because she has understood fully the brief of her office and has executed it to the letter in order to serve Malawians that gave her the opportunity to serve them in the first place.

Our own Iron Lady is being praised because she has chosen to be on the side of Malawians and executed her mandate that derives from the law to utter perfection.

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That is why report after report that she releases on any issue of interest to the public is always earth-shaking because in it, she does not show fear of anyone; however powerful they think they are.

Her findings, for example, into the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) hiring of South African lawyers for the presidential election appeal case has unearthed unethical practices on the part of former Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale and former Mec chairperson Jane Ansah.

The two eminent persons have been ordered to pay back K3.1 million in public funds used for hosting the South African lawyers, at a top hotel in Lilongwe, whose hiring the probe has found illegal.

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Among other findings, the report also uncovered that former chief secretary Lloyd Muhara influenced the illegal appointment of the chairperson of Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets (PPDA), lawyer Madalitso Mmeta, to facilitate the procurement of the South African lawyers.

Chizuma has since asked the Judicial Service vendettas.

She has not started this now. Even during the Democratic Progressive Party-led administration, she was as hot as she is today, taking them on when they shared agricultural equipment which they bought with a loan from India that Malawians are still paying for today.

The question that all Malawians who wish their country well are asking is this: Why is it that other State offices that have been created by law to serve Malawians do not have the same impact that the Ombudsman Office has to protect Malawians against maladministration and abuse?

Reacting to the findings, for example, Malawi Law Society (MLS) Honorary secretary Martha Kaukonde, who was also in attendance during the report release, noted that a majority of those found to have flouted the laws were lawyers and that the report findings set the tone for MLS’s work.

At face value, I want to believe the secretary’s words but I know we have been told about erring lawyers and the public perception and conclusion is that MLS goes on a limb to say the things they say but there is little action to discipline its members when they make mistakes.

But, in all fairness, it is not just MLS sleeping on the job.

The reality is that many regulatory bodies with statutory powers such as MLS in this country do not do their job and, in the process, let the public down in a big way.

This is the reality even with other State institutions that Malawians were overzealous to put in place.

They are also not doing their job despite spending billions upon billions of taxpayers’ money on paying their staff for doing nothing.

The Directorate of Assets Declaration, for example, was set up with noble goals to check excess enrichment of public office holders using their positions.

Since the day it came into being more than five years ago, what does this office have to show to anybody in checking the wealth that our public officers accumulate using their offices through corruption and fraud?

There is literally nothing. Then there is the Law Commission, the Anti- Corruption Bureau, Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Financial Intelligence Unit, and I can go on and on until the cows come home.

The Law Commission was established to come up with new laws and review old ones so that they reflect the aspirations and new reality of Malawians.

You do not hear a thing about them from January 1 to December 31, year in year out. One tends to wonder what they are doing for Malawians on daily basis.

I cannot even remember when the commission last held any national constitutional review conference.

Yet, Malawians pay for all the obscene benefits and salaries, among other entitlements, that officers get from their hard-earned tax, without any value accruing from such offices for them.

But Malawians are not resigned to their fate and they can separate who is engaging in empty public stunts from real substance.

That is why the public reaction was mute when Public Accounts Committee of Parliament Chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said his committee will do lifestyle audits on public officials both from his DPP and present Tonse Alliance government because we have been there before and it all sounds like a scratched record we have heard so many times and nothing happens.

The reality is that there is an unwritten conspiracy to continuously defraud Malawians and deny them development at the expense and enrichment of few fat cats who acquire unexplained wealth at the expense of the poor.

The examples are many and which we see with our own eyes even today.

It all leads to despondency among the public that their lot will never change for the better and that their children will inherit a country that is always tagged as the poorest in the world.

A little glimmer of hope comes from the fact that today’s citizens are very active to demand accountability and it is helping their cause

A little hope comes from the fact that Malawians changed government on June 23 with a quest to change direction of their country for the better.

A little hope comes from decisive public officers such as the Ombudsman who have given fresh impetus to issues of accountability and transparency.

They tread where angels even fear.

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