Hon. Folks, on Wednesday this week President Lazarus Chakwera led millions of Malawians in commemorating this year’s International Anti-Corruption Day at an event held in Blantyre.
In a nutshell, this day—set aside by the United Nations (UN) in 2003 before a UN Convention on combating the vice came into force in 2005—is an opportunity for governments to recommit their action in preventing and uprooting all forms of corruption which devastates public and private governance institutions as well as economies and societies as well.
Throughout their pre-election campaign trail, Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima massively campaigned on the platform of stamping out corruption which was regarded as deep-rooted under the previous regime.
It was not surprising, therefore, to see the President leading the event after publicly signalling his support for ACB’s independence and empowerment on many occasions.
The President also vowed that he is not the type to shield anyone, including Cabinet ministers and members of his family from arrest and prosecution by ACB, which should send a warning to anyone willing to engage in the vice.
Hearing from ACB director Reyneck Matemba, one also gets an aura of optimism that in the near future the bureau may no longer use funding cuts and claims of persistent political interference in its operations from the powers that may be as cues for justifying why it failed to perform to people’s expectations.
For instance, during the conference, Matemba disclosed that for five months now, no one has interfered with ACB’s operations and he applauded the government for increasing funding to the graft busting body in the 2021/22 National Budget by K500 million to K5.2 billion.
Although this is may be enough in terms of budgetary and other forms of support that the bureau deserves in order to move the war on graft forwards, there is still a glimmer of hope that ACB will manoeuvre more than before now especially with the long whip that it now carries since June 23 when Malawians voted for the current regime.
The former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led administration reduced the budgetary allocation to ACB by a whopping K400 million and only allocated K3.2 billion for the fight against corruption in the 2020/21 National Budget.
Hon. Folks, this is a public institution that was established in 1995 as an independent governing body under the Corrupt Practices Act of that year to fight corruption in Malawi by investigating and prosecuting cases related to the vice as well as preventing fraud through provision of public education, among others.
However, it frustrates many to note that Malawi has countable tangible outcomes from a prosecuting agency that has had so many directors to date—a quarter century since its establishment under the United Democratic Front (UDF) administration, and 15 years after the UN Convention on combating corruption came into force in 2005.
Many of the ACB failures are attributed to lack of political will as some past leaders never rested in frustrating the agency’s activities by hiring and firing directors willy-nilly and dictating to its leadership on who to arrest and not if not ordering them how to discharge their duties.
For instance, at one point in July 2006, former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika woke up one morning with guns blazing and ordered the firing and replacement of the then ACB director Gustav Kaliwo for arresting former president Bakili Muluzi on corruption-related charges.
It would later turn out that the elder Mutharika was angry with Kaliwo because he acted independently and never consulted his hiring authority to seek clearance first before effecting the arrest warrant.
Of course one could only deduce and understand Mutharika’s anger because during that time, his minority government was sailing through troubled waters especially in Parliament where he faced resistance from opposition UDF and MCP lawmakers who agitated for his impeachment after he dumped UDF which sponsored him into power and started his DPP.
If such tendencies continue, ACB will never fulfil its mandate of ending corruption, especially when bodies like the Judiciary and prosecuting agencies such as the Malawi Police Service also continue taking the frontline in promoting corruption as established byu a recent Ipor survey.
We must, therefore, agree that corruption is an evil that needs urgent attention as it has resulted in greater impoverishment and moral decay among millions Malawians over the years. n