Four months into his tenure following his triumph in the court-ordered June 23 Fresh Presidential Election, President Lazarus Chakwera has appealed for patience from Malawians as he clears the “rubble” to rid the public service of the rot.
Speaking during the weekly briefing held at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre yesterday, presidential press secretary Brian Banda said the issue was not about how long Malawians must wait, but the legitimate process behind the exercise.
He said the Tonse Alliance administration was following the rule of law to avert potential court claims in the event that some individuals laid off from the public service sue government for unlawful dismissal.
Said Banda: “The President understands the people’s impatience out there. But it [the change] cannot happen overnight. But things are moving at OPC [Office of the President and Cabinet] level, ministerial level, principal secretaries [PS] level, among others. I am sure you have seen some PSs being sent packing.”
He was responding to a question on how long Malawians should wait before those purportedly aiding abuse of public resources or corruption are axed.
But while emphasising that government was not dilly-dallying in cleaning up the public service, Banda said the absence of boards of directors in statutory corporations also affected the process as some actions needed the boards’ mandate.
He said some of the boards have recently been meeting and have since made resolutions on the same and that action will be taken in due course.
Banda also said the removal of some individuals from the system should not be perceived as vengeance because of their alleged political affiliation to the former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). He said most of them were recruited through shady processes; hence, they should be investigated before action is taken or the law takes its course.
In addition, Banda said the Chakwera-led administration was firm on the rule of law and that it will not shield anyone, even those in power or various positions of authority, when they are on the wrong side of the law.
In essence, cleaning up the rubble within the civil service as Chakwera puts it, means removing alleged corrupt officials from the system who are also believed to have been recruited without following normal procedures.
Through their recruitment in the various government ministries, agencies and departments, the officials are alleged to have been abusing office through dubious awards of contracts, recruiting governing party loyalists and allegedly working against opposition political parties besides facilitating financing for the governing party.
In an earlier interview with The Nation, governance expert Makhumbo Munthali said the need to follow procedures and the law is ideal to avoid a situation where government is dragged to court for not following legal administrative procedures.
“At the end of the day, it is the taxpayer who will have to pay for these Executive mistakes,” said Munthali.
He, however, warned the nine-political party Tonse Alliance administration that time was not on its side.
During the past four weeks, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma launched investigations into alleged abuse of office and dubious recruitment of various officials, including chief executive officers at Blantyre Water Board, Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority and Tobacco Commission. The office is also undertaking similar investigations at Malawi posts Corporation and Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority.
But Banda yesterday said the President will not interfere in any investigation being undertaken by such State bodies as they will be left to do their work in an independent manner.
He said: “There have been worries on how these bodies operate in regards to interference. However, these bodies have now been empowered and they will work independently. If there will be any delays in their work, ask them and not the President.”
Commenting on Chakwera’s intention to meet Leader of Opposition once every three months, Banda said the President has so far not done so, but it still remains a priority on his agenda.
On the issue of the money paid to Crossroads Hotel for four guests, Banda said State Residences did not give any conflicting reports on the matter and since the issue is under investigation, they could not comment any further.
He said the President is also interested in the outcome of investigations into the matter.
Last week, one of the directors of the hotel, Sameer Sacranie, said they received a K12.5 million cheque from State House for the four guests at its Lilongwe unit.
The issue came into the spotlight after social media was awash with reports that State House was spending roughly about K225 000 per day for the guests at the hotel.