Hon. Folks, about 15 years ago there was a spectacular outbreak of news reports suggesting how an incumbent leader of some Southern African country had fled his 300-room presidential palace because he believed the mansion was infested with ghosts.
This particular story made rounds not only in the continent of Africa, but globally.
Although the leader angrily denied fearing ghosts in his life, ghosts are ghosts and there are numerous reasons why any normal human being should loathe ghosts for their malevolent ways.
Actually, there are many complimentary adjectives linked to the devious spirits no wonder even governments world over symbolically use the noun to describe employees who only appear on the payroll but do not actually work for the victim government.
Which brings us to today’s subject matter; an order by the Department of Human Resources Management and Development (DHRM) directing all government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to submit updated employment records and staff returns to update its database.
In a letter dated July 16, DHRM is further asking all controlling officers to prepare and submit copies of officers’ educational qualifications, copies of letters of transfer between posts if any and copies of letters of connection of service where applicable.
This folks, is a move in the right direction by the current regime although the process is long overdue, having lost its steam and probably direction in the last few years.
For starters, the war against ghost workers in the public service was recently popularised by the former ruling Democratic Progressive party (DPP) ahead of the 2014 general election through the government reforms process.
Later in 2015, the Government of Malawi committed to undertake a head count in the civil service to remove ghost workers from its payroll in a bid to root out waste and corruption in public finances—a vice that has ruined the country’s development in the past 66 years of independence.
However, the reforms lost their focus and taste a few months later as politics took centre stage within the DPP ranks and file at the expense of delivering the pre-2014 election promises to citizens.
This is why until today Malawi continues to lose billions of donor and taxpayers’ money through fraud perpetrated by both senior and junior civil servants in various MDAs who connive with some villains from outside the government through deliberate manipulation of systems, among others.
A series of audits by certified institutions such as the National Audit Office (NAO) have previously also established how sustained existence of ghost workers mainly in the public service has seen some individuals pocketing double salaries and abusing payments through allowances, dubious fuel allocations, mobile phone airtime and other expenses.
The current initiative to run a massive civil service staff audit, therefore, comes at the right time when the country is embroiled in so much dirt, ranging from public sector corruption, fraud and nepotism.
Of course while some view this as an effort to cleanse the government of its filth that has compromised delivery of basic services to Malawians, others still look at the clean up as an attempt to harass or persecute individuals who are linked to the previous government.
Let us agree that while implementing such an onslaught to safeguard the public purse (as we are meant to believe), scores of undeserving civil servants—mostly recruited by the DPP regime or its agents might be rendered jobless for obvious reasons.
Just like some previous ruling parties, DPP was not spared from accusations of nepotism, corruption and favouritism, among others, believed to be factors that contributed to the systematic collapse of the governments systems.
Nevertheless, this would be a key springboard for kick starting one of the much-touted Tonse campaign promises to create over one million jobs by June 2021 because, as we all agree, there are hundreds of thousands of youths currently who are just getting wasted because they lost trust in the public service recruitment system.
Again, as observed by many this week, this is no time for politics of vengeance because that is not what the majority of Malawians would wish to see.
The country has witnessed political retribution since 1993 but that has not taken the country anywhere close to glory. If anything, it has only wiped out the myriad aspirations that Malawians had for democracy in the early 1990s.
This, folks, is enough reason why President Lazarus Chakwera’s administration must strive to draw out a difference from past regimes if they are to win people’s confidence.