Ombudsman Martha Chizuma says Malawi’s high poverty levels make it hard for the rural poor to report wrong-doing in the public service.
She has since challenged public office bearers to improve on their service delivery and efficiently serve the people they represent.
Chizuma said on Friday that with most Malawians living on less than a dollar a day, their priority is not to hold public officers accountable, but to find food for the day and where to sleep.
“Issues of accountability are secondary to the rural masses. More than 70 percent people are living on less than a dollar, their preoccupation is food for today and where they are going to sleep.
“Therefore, the accountability battle is an uphill task. That’s where the office of the Ombudsman comes in through the mobile clinics to be proactive and reach out to authorities on behalf of the people,” she said.
The Office of the Ombudsman has since last year been conducting mobile clinics across the country to reach out to rural people with their services.
Last week, a team from the office of Ombudsman in Botswana was in the country benchmarking with the local ombudsman to see how things are handled.
Leader of the delegation which escorted Chizuma to Ntchisi District Council, Botswana deputy Ombudsman William Monshoa, said the culture of silence is a big problem which needs to be eradicated if people are to hold public officers to task.
“We came here to benchmark with Malawi on the efforts they use to resolve complaints before them. We have noted that there is a problem of disclosing information, a culture of silence. It is also there in Botswana but on the lower side than here. There is still a need for more advocacy on this,” he said.
Chizuma noted that there is a silent culture not because people don’t know there is something wrong but that they have other urgent needs such as food.
According to the World Bank, Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with 50.7 percent of the population living below the poverty line and 25 percent living in extreme poverty.
According to the third Integrated Household Survey (IHS3), over a period of six years there was a slight decline in the poverty rate from 52.4 percent in 2005 to 50.7 percent in 2011 and has remained steady thereafter.