Those who stole government funds that were meant to save lives during the pandemic, have found out that when the heat is increased a few notches up, life can become unbearable. And that this generation of Malawians is different from previous versions and that among its cherished inheritances, docility is not much in supply.
Pressure is mounting. The noose is tightening. Handcuffs, already, are dropping on those who dipped their dirty long fingers in the national kitty like confeiti. These are not good days to be an official in government whose habits include making up fake activities then pay yourself obscene amounts in real cash.
Thanks to President Lazarus Chakwera’s sensible order last week, many of the public officials in high offices, who were negligent enough to look the other way as malfeasance happened; failed to report the fiscal carnage or even participated in this plunder, have been deposed, for now, from their offices pending full forensic audits and criminal investigations.
That’s a good sign. We hope, once the evidence is clear, the irresponsible officers, the deadwood and, dare say, the rubble we all have decried for years and aptly Christened by the good President, will be gone forever.
That’s a good sign, but not an end in itself. Justice, prospecting those guilty, throwing them in jail and confiscating their ill-gotten wealth must be the end. Correcting the flaws in the civil service that make public office a natural habitat for thieves is an even more important end.
For the second end, genuine reforms must be made swiftly. But first, there must be serious introspection. Genuine and swift reforms was a cornerstone of the new Malawi promised by the Tonse Alliance administration. So, why on earth do we still have rampant wastage and plunder on industrial scale in government? Who is answerable for the failure of the government to instill discipline back in the service?
There are tell-tale signs everywhere on who is responsible for this abject failure. You don’t have to be a political scientist of Henry Chingaipe’s ink to know that the Chief Secretary was recalled from retirement to bring about renewed efficiency and discipline in civil service and somehow, he has made an awful job about it.
The various heads of the clusters that abused the funds, decided to defy a direct presidential order to issue expenditure reports to his office and received no sanction for their petulance until the President himself spelt out punishment for their foolhardy action.
The Office of the Chief Secretary is increasingly resembling the deadwood it was hired to clear.
But that’s not all. The technical co-chairperson of the Covid-19 Taskforce has taken the bullet, if you may allow me to use the analogy, for the mess that has surrounded the Covid-19 funds, but how about the political head of the task force—the Minister of Health? Isn’t the elected official even more responsible for overseeing the activities of the national response? She, too, must face the music.
Yet, there is this small matter of a deputy minister of health who opted for a prolonged holiday somewhere in the West while back home her citizens were dying of the pandemic. That deputy minister is a classic example of irresponsible leadership and bears no semblance of servant-leadership. She, for sure, has exhausted her welcome in the Cabinet, if the Cabinet is to remain a government of the people and not a few entitled folks. For now.