Malawi needs to banish forever the Cashgate evils of reckless plunder of public resources by ensuring that projects in key sectors, including the construction industry, give citizens value for money and are free of corruption and fraud.
United Kingdom-based international board chairperson of the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST), Christiaan Coortman, gave the advice on Wednesday at a two-hour panel discussion beamed live on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) in Lilongwe following the launch of the CoST assurance study the day before.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima, the CoST political champion for Malawi, launched the report that partly referred to the fact that the construction industry had been involved in Cashgate exposed in September 2013.
Coortman said Malawi seems to have learnt lessons and moved on from the Cashgate disaster by fully embracing the CoST initiative that emphasises greater transparency and accountability concerning public funds and projects, including step-by-step disclosure of information from procurement to project completion.
He noted that corruption and fraud are diminishing because tenders and contractors are scrutinised and chosen on merit by the multi-stakeholder group (MSG) that comprises civil society, private sector and government professionals.
In his comments, Malawi MSG chairperson Joe Ching’ani said in its eight years of existence, after CoST had been introduced on a pilot basis, the project has been fully embraced and is a resounding success in that it has empowered ordinary people to query contractors whenever they deliver substandard projects that short-change them.
He said CoST’s insistence on accountability and disclosure of project details had exposed and flushed out crooked contractors, some of whom were deregistered by the construction industry regulator, the National Construction Industry Council (NCIC).
Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) chairperson Robert Mkwezalamba said the civil society he represents on the MSG will relentlessly fight corruption and fraud in the construction industry.
He said the much-awaited Access To Information (ATI) Bill needs to be taken to Parliament for passing to punish contractors and other project officials running public works who tend to hide project details with the aim of siphoning public resources.
During the discussions, panellists responded to queries and questions from patrons at the Crossroads Hotel and from ZBS anchor Chancy Muloza Banda and listeners nationwide.n