The much-anticipated investigative audit into the K6.2 billion Covid-19 Response Plan has confirmed what the public knew all along—hundreds of millions of kwacha have been misappropriated by the people who were entrusted to manage the funds.
According to the report which was leaked on Tuesday, K493.9 million was lost due to flaws in procurement protocols, of which K321.5 million related to the use of request for quotations instead of open tendering procurement methods. An additional K105.9 million was lost to irregular procurement and K48.5 million to the use of single source procurement methods. It also revealed that K7 559 016 related to failure to produce original bid documents and K10 191 500 related to procurement at inflated prices. While K989 500 excess cash after an activity, was shared among officers without justification.
Naturally, the public are not amused with such blatant misuse of taxpayer’s funds, particularly at a time when government is hard pressed for resources to combat the coronavirus pandemic. It is sad that public officials were drawing underserved allowances and over paying for products and services when public hospitals were facing shortages of key life-saving equipment. Public officials were effectively playing with taxpayers’ money when people were dying in public hospitals.
The layman has argued many times before that replacing governments or people working in the public service will not work .
It is high time people stopped abusing public funds, especially those directed to critical public services like health and education.
Financial mismanagement and institutionalised corruption have been a staple of Malawi’s politics ever since former president Hastings Kamuzu Banda took over from the colonial government.
As a matter of fact, different regimes, from the United Democratic Front though to the Democratic Progressive Party and now the Tonse-Alliance have risen to power on the promise to stamp out institutionalised corruption. It is fair to say that none of them have delivered.
While it may be too early to say that the Tonse Alliance has failed, the audit report presents a scathing indictment on its efforts to improve financial management in the short time it has led the government.
It seems all of Chakwera’s tough talk about “clearing the rubble” is not producing any discernible results as of yet and will not yield any meaningful results if the Tonse Alliance continues fixating on removing personnel rather than fixing the system.
If Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance continue fixating on removing perceived “rogue agents” from the system without fixing the system itself, it will just create an opportunity for his preferred people to exploit a malfunctioning system.
From the outside looking in, it seems like reforming the systems should take priority over changing the personnel. In terms of resolving the financial management systems in government, the focus should be on ensuring compliance to procurement protocols.
The first step to start will be to give the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) free reign to carry out its mandate. It is the only way to ensure government gets value for its money.
It is surprising that government ministries, departments and agencies were bypassing the PPDA when procuring goods and services during the pandemic when protocol dictates that it should approve all single source quotations.
It is rather unfortunate that the role of procurement in government is overlooked and largely considered to be a clerical role. This is an important office that is responsible for billions of taxpayers’ money and MDAs think they can bypass it at their own discretion!
From a layman’s perspective, the malpractice will continue until the folks at Capitol Hill take the necessary steps to ensure that MDAs who do not comply with the country’s procurement laws will be penalised at the earliest possible opportunity.