Malawi has been asked to implement law reforms to seal loopholes that have led to abuse of power, widespread corruption and general erosion of good governance.
This is the recommendation of a comprehensive institutional audit of the country’s key accountability institutions (AIs) that focused on key accountability institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Judiciary, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), National Audit Office (NAO), Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) among others.
Funded by the German government, the study’s findings show that there are sweeping presidential powers in the removal and appointment of the heads of the institutions, a development that affects independence of the institutions and that the recruitment and dismissal of the officers does not comply with international standards.
Reads the report in part: “There is a gap between the law and practice in the appointment and the removal of the heads of most AIs. Whereas the law requires the appointment and the removal to be confirmed by the National Assembly, in practice the decision by the President takes immediate effect and thus makes the confirmation process redundant and a mere formality.”
Further, the audit established that some constitutional bodies, notably NAO, were failing to exercise their mandate as stipulated by the law, and instead creating a culture of ‘no-go zones’ for its officers.
Currently, the President unilaterally appoints majority of the heads of accountability institutions, but only seeks approval of Parliament while he can unilaterally fire the heads without seeking Parliament’s consent.
The report additionally calls for separation of some accountability institutions from the Executive, especially the DPP and ODPP.
The report, in particular, cites the ACB director as one duty bearer whose hiring and firing should be changed and aligned with provisions for the recruitment and firing of the chief justice.
Both ACB deputy director general Reyneck Matemba and principal secretary for good governance in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Wezzie Kayira, welcomed the recommendations yesterday following the release of the report in Lilongwe.
Kayira said government was already working on some of the areas the report has called for reforms, including on the reduction of presidential powers as announced by the incumbent President Peter Mutharika.
The audit is part of GIZ’s Strengthening Public and Economic Management (PFEM) in Malawi seeking to strengthen accountability and transparency of key actors involved in management of public funds. n