Folks, we are in one hell of trouble. Things don’t look good at all. We are in a twin crisis of confidence in our government and governance.
Once again, our public finance management system has been exposed as a cheap conduit for selfish folks masquerading as public servants and servant political leadership.
Eight years after Cashgate, we have been reminded of the horrific words of Paul Mphwiyo: “The whole government system is a criminal enterprise”. We are reminded that once again our taxes are not safe and that our poverty and stagnant development are self-made.
That, folks, considering the euphoria that greeted the change of government last year, when we swapped the helplessly corrupt, arrogant and self-serving Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for the sweet-talking Tonse Alliance, is bitter pill to swallow.
It’s sad to watch how fast the goodwill of Malawians and their fat hopes for a national turn-around is ebbing away; their expressions of Malawians quickly replaced by outrage.
It’s not a good place to be as a nation and citizenry. Both need a break from the disillusionment and frustration that have engulfed the air for the past decade or so. The country needs to move forward, but neither our democracy nor our service delivery can survive any much longer battering and lost trust.
We need to ask ourselves, fundamentally, a few tough questions, if we are to make a break with this sad chapter.
For one, folks, why is it that three presidents after Cashgate, we still have industrial scale plunder happening on our watch? I will return to the current administration’s culpability in this whole scheme of things later, but why is it that our civil service continues to act with impunity in its handling of public finance management system? The details from the Auditor General’s report on Covid-19 funding abuse, for example, particularly the methods of plunder, sound eerily familiar.
In fact, the single-sourced bids, inflated contract sums, the insane fuel allocations and double-dipping for allowances, are hallmarks of every audit report out there that has investigated the civil service. Why are we as a country failing to do with the problem?
Our outrage is often short-lived. Often times, we go for simplistic explanations and end up failing to address the problem. Often, politicians are easy punching bags when scandals of these magnitude take place, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so read again the report and you will get the drift.
Apart from a few senseless procurements of politically-connected folks, the majority of the funds have been abused by career civil servants. Think about one questionable payment involving payments, purportedly, to the Presidential Task Force, which were camouflaged as payments to a hotel. A politician might have benefited, but look closely, you will see the fingerprints of a corrupt cunning civil servant all over it.
That is why this time around things must be different. We should seriously tackle the malfeasance in the civil service, if we are going to stop the reoccurring episodes of this grand thieving.
But then, nine months into the Tonse’s proverbial Canaan, the administration, too, must look itself in the mirror and cover its head in shame.
No excuses, folks, Tonse was voted to precisely change this sad state of affairs. Tonse promised us they were going to bring new ways of doing things; that they had the answers. Tonse, nine months later, has only succeeded in creating beautiful illusions, thanks to well-crafted speeches while delivering more of the same old, read more of the shame!
Yet even in this dark moment, there is an opportunity for both government and the people. For the administration to reach this far, the people know that it’s their own quest for justice and accountability that has brought the government to reckoning with truth and ensure an open process. The people would be foolish to relent now. On the other hand, as bruised as the government is, reality is that the problem of abuse in government is many governments in the making and if the current administration can prosecute and punish those culpable diligently without shielding anyone, then it can restore trust to its own leadership and government at large. But it all depends on what happens next, that move, like a game of chess, might decide Tonse’s fate and define its place in history.