President Lazarus Chakwera has come under fire for his tendency to keep under wraps crucial reports for action which ironically he has often demanded publicly from duty-bearers.
In separate interviews yesterday, political analysts, the opposition and civil society organisations (CSOs) said the President’s decision to keep confidential such reports demanded publicly was in sharp contrast to the Tonse Alliance’s campaign promises to run a transparent government driven by servant leadership.
They were reacting to the position by State House that Chakwera will not make public details of the report on perennial civil servants’ salary delays he demanded last Thursday during an impromptu visit to the Department of Human Resource Management and Development (DHRMD).
In an interview yesterday, State House director of communication Sean Kampondeni, who is also the President’s executive assistant, said the President was now focusing on ensuring that responsible statutory stakeholders resolve the issues affecting payment of civil servants’ salaries.
He said: “As has been the protocol in the presidency since Malawi’s founding, memos to the President are the preserve of the President and for his utility in giving actionable direction to the ministries, departments and agencies [MDAs] and not for publicity stunts.”
The President demanded a detailed report from the DHRMD on Thursday.
This is the third report Chakwera demanded publicly, but withheld the highlights from the public domain. The President has also kept under wraps the civil service overhaul report by a team led by Vice-President Saulos Chilima. The President also pledged to make Cabinet assessments based on performance, but there has been no review of the Cabinet nine months after the December 2020 deadline he set.
Reacting to the development in a telephone interview yesterday, political analyst Humphrey Mvula faulted the President for failing to update people on action being taken on the reports he demands in public.
He said having commissioned the reports in public, the President is duty-bound to make details public after following all processes, including discussing any ramifications with his advisers and Cabinet since he does not work singlehandedly.
Mvula said: “The President made it public that he wants to know about something and he should know that expectations were raised.
“The problem we get is that the President is new so he lacks experience on how to handle issues. His mindset is still that of being in opposition, forgetting that he is now in control.”
He also said the other challenge is a lack of communication from State House regarding such reports, a development he said creates suspicion and breeds speculation.
In a separate interview, University of Malawi political analyst Mustapha Hussein said by withholding the reports from the public, the President is showing that he is selective on what to release.
“Much as government is required to be open and release information, what this tells Malawians is that this government will be selective in what it decides to release to the public which is not ideal,” he said.
On his part, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (Csat) executive director Willy Kambwandira said the President cannot backpedal on his promise of servant leadership, stressing that he has an obligation to report to Malawians.
He said: “Generally, it is not a good practice to publicly demand for such reports and then fail to account or give feedback to Malawians on the same.
“This only arouses suspicions that somewhere things are not well including speculations that are also making rounds that there are no funds for salaries owing to government, extravagance during the Sadc [Southern Africa Development Community] conference.”
In his reaction, Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa urged Chakwera to walk the talk on his promise of running a transparent government by making the reports public.
He said: “These are issues affecting Malawians. If you look at the issue of salaries, it is affecting all civil servants, including members of Parliament [MPs]. He did the same with the Cabinet assessment reports and the civil service overhaul report.”
On February 14 2021, Chakwera assigned Chilima to lead a special task team to produce a report on the overhaul of the civil service to improve efficiency.
The Chilima-led team was given three months to provide a report to Chakwera which the Vice-President submitted within the given timeframe.
Since June this year, salaries of civil servants’ have been delaying with authorities blaming it on the Integrated Financial Management and Information system (Ifmis) in addition to delays in submission of documents to process the salaries.
Speaking during the launch of the K19 billion six-lane Kenyatta Road in Lilongwe on Thursday, Roads Authority board chairperson Joe Ching’ani also expressed dissatisfaction with delays in paying contractors which is being attributed to the new Ifmis.
Government on July 1 rolled out the new Ifmis aimed at bringing efficiency in financial management in the civil service and eliminate abuse.