Government is holding soul-searching discussions with stakeholders like law enforcers, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the media on why Malawi is making little progress in eliminating corruption.
The government tact was discovered on Wednesday when Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu hosted senior media officials in a consultative stakeholders meeting at his ministry’s headquarters at Capital Hill in Lilongwe.
Those engaged included Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi chairperson Thom Khanje, Misa-Malawi national coordinator Aubrey Chikungwa and Media Council of Malawi executive director Vales Machila.
ACB senior public relations officer Egrita Ndala was also in attendance.
The media houses were represented by director of news and current affairs at Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) Teresa Ndanga and bureau chiefs at Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) Deogratias M’mana and Nation Publications Limited (NPL) Samuel Chunga.
Tembenu disclosed that government put off the traditional commemoration of the International AntiCorruption Day (IACD) last December, opting, instead, for the soul searching to upgrade the war against the vice.
IACD ceremonies include a public parade of updates of Malawi’s fight against corruption, a virtual one-off public ceremony.
Tembenu said in recent months, the government, through his ministry, has been engaging various stakeholders in open discussions, whereby ideas and recommendations are recorded.
He explained that, to this end, his ministry has recently already engaged with the stakeholders on an assessment of the problem and depth of corruption in Malawi and what should be done to eradicate the vice that is looting public resources and denying ordinary citizens effective development.
“We have already spoken to many stakeholders, including diplomats, chief executive officers, principal secretaries (in the civil service), other heads of parastatal organisations and procurement officers. We have had rich and honest feedback.
“The next step will be a national dialogue in the near future where we should look at deep and searching questions like why we seem to be losing the battle against corruption. The battle against corruption is being fought on two fronts: the reality of the vice worldwide and corruption as a perception —and for substantive solutions, we will need to look at our strategies and tools nationally,” Tembenu enthused.
He said the government is determined to take its zero-tolerance stance against corruption to a higher level, based on the political will President Peter Mutharika shows by stressing that the battle against corruption should be his government’s major thematic goal from this year onwards.
Tembenu commended the media for showing tenacity and bravery in exposing corruption wherever it is detected.
He, however, said the presidency and government must not be expected to jump on every story, or hint, on alleged corruption because it is imperative that reasonable proof first be found before disciplinary actions can be taken against the accused.
In open discussions later, the journalists and the other participants complained that the fight against corruption sometimes seems an exercise in futility when some government actions are tantamount to shielding suspected culprits, like cabinet ministers, or when key public information is being withheld by officials.
They commended the government for facilitating the passing and enacting of the Access to Information Bill (ATI), but they asked that the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ministry should roll out the new law and train journalists and other stakeholders on its application for the benefit of ordinary Malawians.