Honourable folks, two things again today; first I join those applauding President Lazarus Chakwera for finally heeding to deafening calls by Malawians who wanted Martha Chizuma to succeed Reyneck Matemba at the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).
Chakwera appointed Chizuma on Wednesday this week and as expected, the Ombudsman’s selection was instantly welcomed by many Malawians who appreciate Chizuma’s hardworking spirit.
This appointment cannot, therefore, be overemphasised because the appointing authority is also the same person who vigorously campaigned on the platform of uprooting corruption which remains endemic in the public service.
Chizuma’s endorsement was even louder in places such as social media, minibuses and watering holes and even a stranger would tell that the subject under public attention is no ordinary person.
This is a person who has a good track and has persuaded many people that the fight to clear the rubble of corruption, fraud and moral decay, especially in the public service is not only a man’s job.
Throughout her tenure as Ombudsman, Chizuma has competently handled many cases bordering on dishonesty and exploitation of public offices and she has so far cracked her whip on many officials in her bid to instill discipline in the public sector.
It would be naïve for someone to conclude that the new ACB boss, whose appointment is only awaiting approval by the national Assembly, was appointed purely to boost female representation in high public offices. Chizuma is a lawyer extraordinaire.
Hon. Folks, just as many have noted already, the next ACB boss is an achiever and I can vouch for her trustworthiness and guarantee that even the parliamentary Appointments committee (PAC) will do the needful by confirming her to help Malawi move forward.
Of course it may be too soon to conclude that her going to ACB will transform the graft busting body overnight. Remember this is an institution that has frustrated many Malawians in terms of fighting corruption due to multiple factors such as lack of capacity and political interference by those in power.
This brings us to the question of what really happened to the ‘30-day corruption amnesty’ for politicians and government officials to return money and other valuables stolen from the government as proclaimed by Chakwera and his Vice-President Saulos Chilima during the 2020 fresh election campaign which catapulted them to power.
The two zigzagged across the country preaching that once elected they would offer a limited amnesty for individuals and companies to surrender stolen funds. They did not end there, they further warned (in fron of television cameras) that their administration will prosecute those who fail to comply after the amnesty expires.
A wise person once said power tends to corrupt (the mind), and absolute power corrupts absolutely and I shudder to conclude that this is now the case with Chakwera and Chilima because the two have hardly uttered a word on this issue since they were sworn in.
Am sure that amnesty could have set the ball rolling for the country’s war on corruption and the same could have been the foundation for people like Martha Chizuma who have joined the crusade to exorcise Malawi of the spirit of moral decay.
I said the other day that corruption amnesties are well suited for countries like ours which lack the manpower to investigate everyone suspected to have stolen or mismanaged public funds and can be a potential solution to limited investigative resources.
I will say this again; it is high time the government considered declaring that the much-touted 15 or is it 30-day amnesty now to recover all ill-gotten gains as a strategy to help curb the scourge of corruption in the country. Otherwise it appears some perpetrators might go scot-free until around the next election.
Already even the current crackdown on suspected corrupt individuals still runs on meagre financial and human resources, rendering it impossible to track down every corrupt individual.
As a concerned citizen, I urge the government and the next ACB boss to dig deeper into the causes of corruption than just dealing with the symptoms that include unfinished public projects and substandard workmanship whose monies were paid already in total.