- Chakwera yet to act on recommendations
- President will act at appropriate time—State House
Nearly two months after getting a report on the overhaul of the civil service to improve efficiency, there is no movement on the ground as President Lazarus Chakwera is yet to act on the recommendations.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima, whom the President on February 14 2021 assigned to lead a special task team on the exercise within three months, submitted the report to Chakwera on May 21 this year.
The President has kept a tight lid on the report since taking delivery of the same from the 14-member special task team, prompting calls from some civil society organisations (CSOs) for the recommendations to be made public in the spirit of transparency and accountability as championed by the Tonse Alliance administration.
But in an interview yesterday, presidential press secretary Brian Banda said the President will not be dragged into commenting on the report.
He could also not give a timeline when Chakwera would act on it, saying: “State House will not give a progress report until a time deemed appropriate by the President.”
Office of the Vice-President spokesperson Pilirani Phiri also said the Public Service Systems Review Task Force submitted its report to the President as per its mandate.
In his Sixth National Address on the War on Covid-19 delivered on February 14 2021, the President tasked the Vice-President to lead a team to conduct what he called “a comprehensive review and overhaul of the three government systems of allowances, procurement and employment contracts”.
Chakwera said: “The recommendations must include any legislative changes we must make in our laws at one of the sittings of Parliament this year so that our laws protect the interests and resources of the public, not the rubble of public servants who use broken systems to loot and use bad laws and contracts to keep their jobs in the system and keep looting.”
The President also said the recommendations should include a restructuring of the civil service to improve efficiency and review civil servants’ conditions of service to support team was asked to
Reacting to the delays to roll out the recommendations or make public the same, CSOs and governance experts yesterday described the State House’s stance as counterproductive. They argued that it demonstrates lack of commitment to implement the proposed reforms.
University of Malawi associate professor of political scientist Blessings Chinsinga yesterday said while there could be some sensitive issues highlighted in the report highlighted that might have made government reluctant to release it, its disclosure could have led to public ownership of the reform process.
“Public ownership through dialogue that confronts issues that we often skirt around might be a necessary evil,” he said.
Chinsinga said putting the report into the public domain would help trigger some meaningful public dialogue which could offer some useful insights on implementation of seemingly politically-sensitive recommendations that are necessary to get a fit-for-purpose public sector.
On his part, Centre for Society Transparency and Accountability (Csat) executive director Willy Kambwandira yesterday said the government’s delay to implement the reforms and the ‘hide-and- seek’ approach to the whole process does not demonstrate mindset change rhetoric.
“We can only speculate and suspect that this is a way of running away from being held accountable. The whole process is shrouded in some form of secrecy with some form of back and forth, contradictions and indecisiveness. All these smell of lack of transparency and accountability,” he said.
Kambwandira said the public reforms are for Malawians and public resources were used to develop them; hence, they should not be personalised or kept under lock and key.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) chairperson Gift Trapence, whose organisation has called for the release of the report, said the non-disclosure shows lack of commitment towards implementing the reforms and transparency.
He said: “HRDC is not surprised with the delays to implement the public reforms. There is no commitment to implementing the reforms that is why the very same government is hiding the report from the taxpayers who funded the report.”
The 14-member task force comprised academics, government officials, governance experts and CSO representatives and reviewed the systems of procurement, contracts and employment in government to offer quick-fix solutions to lack of efficiency in the civil service and fight corruption.