Chief Secretary in the Office of President and Cabinet Lloyd Muhara has warned controlling officers in non-performing ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) that they risk being punished this financial year.
Speaking on Thursday at Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe where outstanding MDAs were awarded, he said it is high time government started punishing poor performers to ensure that people are responsible for their actions.
Said Muhara: “Beginning this year, we will start punishing non-performers. We need to work hard and make sure that the funds that were entrusted to us are used effectively.
“It’s sad that since the launch of the awarding ceremony only small MDAs win. What is wrong with the big MDAs and ministries? What are we missing? It’s high time we punished that. You need to improve.”
He said punishing non-performers will also enhance accountability in the management of public finances they are entrusted with.
Muhara said it was unfortunate that big MDAs have not won anything since 2015 when the awards were introduced. He observed that only the Ministry of Transport and Public Infrastructure had been outstanding having won it in 2018.
The Performance Contracting System was introduced to improve MDAs’ service delivery to the public. Controlling officers sign a performance contract where they outline their plans and targets for the year and are assessed based on the execution.
The awards are judged based on the following; finance and stewardship, non-financial category, service delivery category, operations category, dynamic qualitative category, and the corruption eradication category which should always be in line with Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS).
In an interview after the ceremony, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma said hard work has made them tick as they were once the worst performer.
She said: “As an office, we are so excited. It means our hard work has been rewarded. This is a very feel good moment for us, we have been able to bring justice to people on the ground. It is a very big motivation.
“In 2015, we were worst performers. In 2016, we were the most improved and in 2018 we were number two and now we have won the best performer in the constitutional category and also the overall winner.”
There were three categories on the awards thus, the best parastatals won by Malawi Bureau of Standards, the best constitutional bodies won by the Ombudsman and the best government department category scooped by the National Audit Office (NAO).
NAO’s achievement comes at a time prudent public finance management at Capital Hill remains a pipedream with Malawi Government accounts audits between 2013 and 2018 revealing continued rot and weaknesses in accounting for taxpayers’ money.
Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has previously expressed disappointment over the manner in which MDAs handle issues of performance management, audits and failure to punish errant controlling officers as provided in the Public Finance Management Act and Public Audit Act.
Reacting to the awards, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace national coordinator Boniface Chibwana said they reflect the situation on the ground in terms of performance of MDAs.
He said: “Well deserved [for the Office of the Ombudsman]. The office has done commendable investigations and they have instituted hospital and council ombudsman which has made the office accessible.”