Hon. Folks, President Lazarus Chakwera’s 48-hour ultimatum for heads of various Covid-19 clusters to account for K6.2 billion response funds given to them in August was perhaps news of the week for many.
Chakwera’s surprise demand during his fifth update on Malawi’s fight against Covid-19 last Sunday followed growing speculation suggesting that the funds might have been abused by some public officers.
Surprisingly, the order caught many controlling officers off guard and—to a larger extent—exposed how some Malawians are shamelessly doing the bare minimum in their offices even in view of this pandemic.
These controlling officers were on a knife’s edge immediately after the President’s shock demand and had to work under severe duress to just accomplish what taxpayers are supposed to be paying them for every month.
Really there was no need for the whole head of State to push these sluggish individuals to explain how their agencies used the funds meant for the fight against the virus that has so far killed over 900 people and infected nearly 30 000 others in the country.
Nonetheless, the President must be commended for refusing to completely trust his own officers probably knowing that even his government is vulnerable to corruption and complacency which were endemic in the previous regime.
These are the individuals who habitually enjoy taking it one day at a time and they choose the easiest paths when delivering essential public services to Malawians, thereby giving our leaders bad reputations on a silver platter.
Fortunately when Chakwera assumed office last year, he pledged an improved governance structure built on the rule of law and transparency and accountability, among others.
In any case, inconceivable trouble usually comes when a captain of the ship wrongly assumes that all his subordinates at different levels of the ship’s command know their roles and expect them to execute their tasks in accordance with his quest to keep the vessel afloat… only to be disappointed.
If you asked me I’d tell you that officers who had no readily available reports and were caught sleeping on the job this week are part of the rubble that Chakwera’s broom must clear. Without any close supervision such characters would consciously or unconsciously give room for corruption because they seem not to be accountable in their operations.
Which takes us to another issue regarding checks and balances in Parliament where the former ruling DPP commands the opposition bloc amid assertions that the current opposition is the weakest in recent history.
But this was not the case this week as DPP resurrected from its slumber and joined demands for an audit on how the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) used the K6.2 billion Covid-19 response funds from Treasury.
The party requested the National Audit Office to immediately conduct the audit adding that if confirmed that funds were stolen or misappropriated, the responsible officers must immediately be arrested and prosecuted under the laws of the country.
The DPP also deserves commendation for taking a tough stance on the government because the money involved is quite substantial.
However, it is interesting to note that DPP, which was booted out of government partly due to widespread corruption, has matured overnight and has all the wisdom to see and get rid of the specks in the eyes of the MCP-led government.
Remember this is same party Chakwera accused of allegedly stealing over $1 billion (about K780 billion at the current exchange rate) through corruption when he came to power.
The 2020 auditor General’s report on how the government managed its finances from 2018 showed that by DPP’s exit $10 million (about K7.8 billion) could not be accounted for, $1 million (about K780 million) was used to pay for projects which were not completed and $400 000 (about K312 million) was used for fuel without corresponding documents.
This does not include the Covid19 funds mobilised by the previous administration with the help of donors which forced some donors to freeze direct funds to the government.
Much as the DPP demand is genuine and holds the government to account, it also sounds like that tale of involving a thief to catch a thief hoping there is one.