United Kingdom (UK) High Commissioner Holly Tett on Monday expressed concern over what she described as “politically-connected” individuals who are undermining the fight against corruption in the country.
The envoy, who was speaking on behalf of Malawi’s development partners at the International Anti-Corruption Day in Mangochi, said they are also concerned with emerging evidence of “cartels” operating within the private sector that push to win public procurement contracts.
Tett’s concerns come at a time relevant authorities in the country have on numerous occasions been blamed for failing to step up the fight against corruption, mainly when it comes to prosecuting individuals who are perceived to be affiliated to the governing party.
Criticisms have also been levelled at some public institutions where individuals have been moved for either exposing corruption or resisting to take part in corrupt practices influenced mainly by politicians.
But in her address, Tett described as bravery moves by some civil servants who have come out in the open and admitted that there is corruption within the system.
She said: “We have also received reports of public servants being moved from their positions for doing their jobs professionally, for championing your zero-tolerance policy and for refusing to tolerate corrupt practices.
“Disclosures such as the one made by the Principal Secretary [PS] from the Ministry of Lands in front of a parliamentary committee about corruption in the allocation of land should be recognised as an impressive example of civic courage and rewarded as the actions of a professional civil servant doing a good job.”
The envoy was referring to what PS in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Joseph Mwandidya told the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament last month that the ministry is infested with corruption, abuse of office and maladministration.
Appearing before the committee, the PS said there is no need to hide the rot that is within the ministry as there are syndicates duping individuals through land sales and challenged legislators that they could also be illegal land owners through such syndicates.
But Tett said the reality is that if the country is unable to check corruption, it will further undermine efforts of the country’s development agenda, erode trust within taxpayers, scare away investors and make it hard for development partners to continue delivering assistance to the country.
In addition, she pointed out that corruption impacts on the average Malawians that continue being subjected to sub-standard public services as well as loss of investments in the public services.
Tett said: “The fight against corruption should not be for the Anti-Corruption Bureau alone. It requires a coalition that, for example, should involve greater coordination among the Executive, the Judiciary, Parliament, law enforcement agencies, banks, estate agents, lawyers, civil society, the media and the private sector.
“As development partners, we also stand ready to play our part.”
But on his part, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Bright Msaka said although corruption remains rampant in the country, government has put in place measures to control it.
“Yes, there is corruption, but I can challenge that over the years, we have implemented interventions that have tackled it. We are still committed because as a country, we cannot afford to condone corruption,” he said.
In his remarks, ACB director Reyneck Matemba said apart from funding challenges, the bureau is not receiving tip-offs from the public on corruption issues.
“We are aware that some members of the public have stopped tipping us on suspected cases of corruption because the public perception is that ACB drags its feet to investigate and conclude cases.
“Ideally, to meet public expectations and send proper warnings to would-be perpetrators, we need to expedite investigations followed by proper court processes which should end in conviction. That way, Malawians would be convinced that we are fulfilling our duties,” he said.
While corruption has been a major concern for years, with politicians pledging to do away with the vice, a majority of Malawians are of the view that graft has always been increasing as evidenced by numerous reports that have been released in previous years.
According to a Global Corruption Barometer report on citizen’s views and experiences of corruption jointly released in July this year by Transparency International (TI) and Afrobarometer, about 72 percent of Malawians are of the view that corruption has been on the increase during the previous 12 months. Malawi is currently ranked 120 on the 2018 TI Corruption Perception Index (CPI).
In 2017, it was reported the country moved eight places from 112 in 2015 to 120 in 2016, according to the CPI.
The global corruption institution also indicates that Malawi was 88th in 2012, but has since gone down to 120. The situation was then largely attributed to the discovery of massive plunder of public resources known as Cashgate between 2012 and 2013 during the Joyce Banda-led administration.
The country also moved two places from 120 in 2016 to 122 in 2017.