National Anti-Corruption Alliance has decried what it terms a lukewarm approach by President Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance administration in dealing with corruption.
The grouping—which comprises Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Youth and Society (YAS), Malawi Law Society (MLS) and the Church and Society of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia—argues that the administration is too slow and too secretive in its dealings, a departure from promises made in the campaign for the court-sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election held on June 23 2020.
They fault government for departing from its promise to provide a 30-day ultimatum for those involved in corruption to surrender their assets, slow progress in handling the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds abuse and failure to indicate how additional K17 billion Covid-19 funds have been used.
Speaking during a media briefing in Mzuzu on Monday, the alliance’s chairperson Moses Mkandawire of the Church and Society wondered why the President has to date not informed the nation details of a public sector review report which a team led by Vice-President Saulos Chilima submitted in June this year.
He said: “Evidence shows that the Tonse administration has not done much on the fight against fraud and corruption given the mismanagement of part of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds.
“It has not acted on the unresolved reports of fraud at National Oil Company of Malawi [Nocma] and the continued involvement of Ministry of Mining officials in bribery allegations.”
Mkandawire said while the grouping commends government for hiring a new Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director general in record time, they are concerned with leadership vacancies at the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) and National Audit Office.
“Government [also] continues to paralyse institutions such as ACB and National Audit Office with under-funding,” he said.
On his part, CHRR executive director Michael Kaiyatsa added that despite government making the Access to Information (ATI) Act operational, it continues to act in secrecy.
He cited a number of areas where Capital Hill and the President have withheld public information.
Kaiyatsa said: “Last year, there were allegations that State House had been making questionable payments to Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe. Up to now, the country is yet to know the outcome of investigations into the matter and those involved are yet to be held to account.
“You also recall that in June last year, government suspended some contracts awarded to pave the way for an investigative audit. To date, there has been no word on what that audit found, we just hear new contracts are being awarded. This is how secretive this government has become.”
In a memo dated June 30 2020, Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zangazanga Chikhosi issued a temporary suspension on contracts to carry out a quick audit of prospective contracts, to ascertain a number of things, including the transparency and credibility of the processes and procedures followed and decisions made.
In its Procurement Prior Review Report, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority reported that “just before” the fresh presidential election in June last year, 81 contracts valued at K52 billion were approved and that in May another lot of 93 contracts worth K22 billion were also approved.
For Kaiyatsa, the country is now plunging into high levels of corruption, compounded by failure by the government to fulfil its promises, slow pace of investigations on criminal cases and secrecy in its dealings.
“We have an administration that is not only moving at a snail’s pace in tackling corruption, but is also allowing corrupt practices to grow and prosper. Arrests have been made, but what has come out of that? There have been no convictions,” he said.
Daniel Msiska, representing YAS, also said the government lacks decisiveness in dealing with corruption, looking at how issues of Crossroads Hotel and Nocma are being handled.
“The quicker you investigate, the quicker you deter other would-be offenders of corruption. How does the Nocma saga take nine months without being resolved?” he decried.
But anti-money laundering law expert Jai Banda said Malawi still has laws that can help deal with graft, but there is serious lack of political will.
He said: “We need political will because most of the laws are there. It’s just a matter of making sure that they are enforced without a barrier or choosing who comes from which party. It should just be across the board.
“We need political will to ensure that there is enough funding to all stakeholders like MRA [Malawi Revenue Authority], ACB and FIA.”
On July 1, Minister of Information Gospel Kazako said the Tonse Alliance administration is unique in the sense that people are able to hold it to account for its actions.
He said information such as Cabinet assessment and the public service review report will be made public in due course, adding, the perceived slowness is because government is following the rule of law as well as procedures and principles of democracy.
“We have worked on the systems, but not to the level that we want. Work is in progress. People are justified to say we are slow, but time is coming for running and they should brace for it,” said Kazako.
Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima rose to power on the platform of ending corruption in the public sector and changing the way of doing things.