The world-over, governments are intensifying efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic by effecting various measures to support public health systems, safeguard the economy and to ensure the safety of their citizens.
At the same time, criminals have been quick to seize opportunities to exploit the crisis. It is not only fraudsters and organised crime groups who could be taking advantage of the pandemic. Corrupt officials and businesses are without shame taking advantage of the pandemic to enrich themselves and their cronies.
This is the case because with the pandemic at hand, certain procedures are being intentionally flouted or loosened all the name of the emergency response to the pandemic. For instance, there is likely to be procurement procedures being flouted, tenders to supply essential services and goods being awarded to those connected to the ruling party and so many other laws being ignored.
Corrupt officials and businesspersons have the perfect combination in place for more opportunities for rent-seeking as more domestic and foreign resources are made available to fight the pandemic. There is more discretion in decision-making and allocation of resources, less transparency and accountability mechanisms as well as limited supervision and enforcement.
It is for this reason that the Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 has been refusing to take questions from the media and even the public because they are afraid of being exposed and, also, do not want to account for what they say.
Some Malawians have watched the video clip in which two Cabinet ministers—Jappie Mhango for Health and Mark Botomani for Information—are discussing allowances, with suggestions on how to circumvent accountability measures because, Botomani swore not long ago, that Cabinet ministers were not pocketing any allowances. Covid-19 is perfect storm for the corrupt officials.
Apart from the thieving officials who are ready to dip their dirty hands into the money meant for saving the lives of Malawians, there are some businesses which are making a kill out of products such as hand sanitisers by almost tripling the prices.
The infamous Botomani and Mhango video clip is just a tip of the iceberg. What the two ministers have shown Malawians is that the salary cuts that President announced recently was just a smokescreen meant to fool Malawians into thinking that these dishonourable men and women have the welfare of Malawians at heart. They don’t. They only care about their bellies.
Covid-19 is a perfect storm for the corrupt and criminals. There will be people and businesses that will come out of the pandemic richer. This is the more reason Malawians should be vigilant and be able to question things that do not make sense.
The wicked do not rest. They see this pandemic as an opportunity for them to steal from unsuspecting citizens. They need to be stopped.