As it has already been said elsewhere, President Peter Mutharika promised, during the 2014 election campaign, that he would reduce his powers if voted into power. So far this has not yet been done. Undoubtedly, people still wish he could do so. This was evidently clear during the All-Inclusive Public Affairs Committee (PAC) conference held in Blantyre in February 2016. According to the PAC report after the conference, which is yet to be discussed, stakeholders at the conference raised the issue of executive Presidential powers of appointments. People are more concerned about the appointment of chief executives of institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), which are supposed to be independent. Experience has shown that the appointment by the President compromises their independence of the institutions.
For example, the majority of Malawians feel that the ACB is not really independent and seems to work under political influence of the appointing authority. Corruption investigations by ACB seem to be selective and mostly geared to pleasing the ruling elites. In fact, the DPP-led government seems not to be serious about the operations of the ACB. To confirm this belief, recently Minister of Finance Goodal Gondwe was quoted in the interview with a BBC reporter saying the ACB was imposed on Malawi by the World Bank and IMF. While Malawians look at the ACB as a solution to solving the ravaging corruption that is killing the country, the government feels it is not on its agenda and; therefore, its performance is not really the concern of government.
The President once said that he does not want to be a rubber stamp type of a leader by reducing his powers. But for the sake of better performance of the organisations there is need to give and recognise the power of the boards. It is common knowledge that boards of government institutions are better placed when it comes to engaging a chief executive officer who should be answerable to them.
Due to too much power, sometimes it has been found that the President over steps with his powers of appointing officers. For example, recently it was quoted in Weekend Nation that the President had goofed in appointing the deputy director of Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) because the appointment is supposed to be done by the director of the unit.
The unfortunate part of presidential appointments is the wrong perception by those appointed that their institutions are not answerable to Malawians, but to the appointing authority, and the ruling party. A clear example is the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). Despite being a public broadcaster, time and again people have complained that it is now used as a propaganda tool for the ruling DPP. The sad part is to see opposition parties and their leaders being dressed down by the station as if they run the station. Needless to say that the usual argument that it has always been like this with previous governments as well, does not hold water. If something is bad, it has to be corrected even if it has been a tradition.
The situation in most institutions can improve if the President can reduce his powers as the appointing authority. There would be no executive interference. It is now a challenge to him that as he claims to have delivered his campaign promises, he should also deliver on reducing his powers. n