Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general Reyneck Matemba has declared that all public institutions, especially those that provide services to the citizenry, are rotten to the core in corruption.
The statement is also a slap in the face of President Peter Mutharika, who during the opening of the 2018/19 budget session in May, claimed that there is evidence that his government is containing and reducing corruption.
Speaking during a debate which the Malawi Law Society (MLS) organised in Mzuzu on Friday, Matemba said the country needs not live in denial about the corruption challenge.
He said numerous corruption cases the bureau receive from government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), confirm the gravity of the matter, explaining that the problem is a result of moral decay, greed, lack of integrity, and ethical standards which have gone down.
Matemba was responding to a query from Mzuzu-based rights activist Charles Kajoloweka, who demanded explanation on why the bureau was not pinning down some government agencies involved in corruption.
Said Kajoloweka: “Why we are struggling at this stage, [the sad fact] is that we have avoided highly corrupt institutions and have become untouchables.”
In response, Matemba said no MDA is being spared in the country, but that “all of them are rotten,” as evidenced by the many reports of cases of corruption they receive.
He said: “All government ministries, departments and agencies are rotten. There is no single one which we are not having problems with on issues of corruption.
“I will repeat what I said; it is all government ministries, departments and agencies where we are getting reports of corruption. Others are worse, especially those that directly deal with the citizens, the public, like service providers. Those are the ones that are most highlighted, but all of them have issues.”
He lamented Malawi’s poor ranking by the Transparency International (TI), having occupied position 120 in 2015, then 112 in 2016 and a record low 122 in 2017.
The ACB boss said it was important for the MDAs to implement various corruption prevention strategies they developed to help deal with the problem.
“I want to be realistic. As a country, we have a long way to go. We have a problem, and I think the first thing we have to do is to accept that we have a problem. If we continue denying, or remaining in a state of denial, then I think we are not doing a good job.
“Our moral standards have gone down, because you might put in all mechanisms, dealing with bureaucratic procedures, cutting red tape, changing the laws, prosecuting people, but we will be chasing shadows if people decide to live a life without ethics. Corruption, fraud, abuse of office, will be the order of the day,” he added.
Experts, analysts decry problem
In an interview, governance expert Henry Chingaipe said the problem is that anti-corruption strategies in Malawi are developed for road shows to hoodwink donors.
“There is nowhere in the world where you fight corruption by developing a statement of intent on how to deal with corruption and you put it on the shelf. You don’t fund it, you don’t implement it, you do nothing, and when its time has elapsed you look back and say why is corruption still haunting us?
“We are a very serious joking nation, when it comes to fighting corruption. Words of mouth don’t fight corruption my brother, it is action that does. Do you think in this country all these leaders have no idea on how to fight corruption? They indulge in corruption fully knowing that it is wrong,” he said.
Chingaipe also reiterated that the citizenry will continue being on the painful receiving end of corruption.
Rights and governance activist Moses Mkandawire of the Church and Society of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia, who was part of the audience, said those entrusted in protecting the public purse are failing the citizenry.
“Somebody at the helm of management and administration of the State is the one facilitating [corruption]. We need to say ‘Mr. Man, we didn’t put you there to enrich yourself’. The cronies of these leaders become so rich within three years and we are just looking at that. We need to stop watching, but act!” he lamented.
On his part, international law expert Professor Dan Kuwali, who was a panelist during the debate, said the country has over the years put much emphasis on investigating and prosecuting corruption, without rewarding public servants and whistle-blowers.
Kuwali, a Brigadier General in the Malawi Defence Force (MDF), said there is need to reward those that have manifested professionalism in their dealings.
He outlined a strategy which he called Command and Condemn Strategy to prevent corruption.
“We need a reform of our institutions, capacity building of individuals and also the way we do things. We need a mindset change. We also need to reward good and punish the bad, empower the citizens so that they are able to abhor corrupt practices, inculcate a culture of integrity and professionalism but also integrity checks,” said Kuwali.
Government spokesperson Nicholas Dausi, who is also Minister of Information and Communications Technology, said it would not be ideal for him to comment on matters raised by an investigative body.
“Maybe you should have asked him [Matemba] to clarify what he meant, in what context did he say that? But what we believe as government is that corruption is a collective continuous struggle that we must all fight so much so that we have to end the vice,” he said.
ACB suffers funding cuts
In July this year, our sister newspaper, Weekend Nation revealed that the fight against corruption is not being won as Capital Hill either cut funding to key institutions or dithers to activate tools designed to strengthen the bodies.
The analysis of funding to key institutions in the graft fight since 2014, and a review of their legal and regulatory state show a slack in support to the bodies.
The leading institutions analysed include ACB, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), National Audit Office (NAO), Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) and Treasury.
Among these institutions, ACB is the worst hit on funding, with our analysis showing a 12 percent cut in nominal terms since the 2014/15 fiscal year.
The bureau’s funding has been reduced to K938 million this fiscal year, from a five-year high of K2.4 billion in 2016/17, figures from government’s financial statements show.
The bureau’s funding rose from K1.4 billion in 2014/15 to K1.8 billion the following fiscal year; climbed to K2.4 billion a year later, then slid to K1.8 billion in the just-ended financial year, before fizzling to the K938 million allocation.
While other institutions in the graft fight appear to have received improved funding, albeit in a see-saw fashion since 2014, budget documents show that FIA and DPP have received lower allocations in the current financial year.
In an interview after the Mzuzu debate on Friday, Matemba indicated that the bureau sometimes operates for two to three months without funding.