Will there be anything that this Government is going to get right? From the Biometric Voter Registration (BVRK) scandal, to the botched Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) which has been suspended and now the utter disregard of the Constitution which in Section 92 (1) makes it mandatory that there shall be a Cabinet consisting of the President, the First Vice-President, the Second Vice-President and such ministers and deputies as may from time, be appointed by the President. All this is happening at back of the persistent power outages which are chocking the private sector, despite the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) spending billions of kwacha on leased gensets and theft of 4.3 million litres of diesel at Escom.
Again, this is coming after Escom procured equipment worth K4.6 billion which might not be used for the next 10 years and after an audit report revealed that the power utility firm could not account for K10 billion in the past two years.
Before the issue of the BVRK has been sorted out, with calls for the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Chairperson Justice Jane Ansah to resign to pave way for an independent forensic audit, following the loss and recovery of the BVRK equipment, government this week suspended Fisp.
In announcing the suspension of the K43.5 billion programme, government cited anomalies in the distribution chain and redemption of beneficiary coupons. This is raising doubts about the success of the programme designed to improve food security among the one million vulnerable households with rains just around the corner. Government says it wants to align, reconcile and consolidate the distribution process in all the districts in line with the planned distribution figures.
If this is true, then it is clear that someone has been sleeping on his job during distribution of the coupons. That person who has not done a diligent job should like Ansah step aside as the ministry audits the programme. The suspension of Fisp at this stage will negatively impact on food security in the country because rains will not wait for government to do the so-called aligning, reconciling and consolidating of the distribution process.
What is a known fact is that the decision to suspend Fisp countrywide has been made against the backdrop of reports that some beneficiaries’ names were deleted from the register of recipients and some registers were forged. This is a clear indication that some people want to steal Fisp money meant to help the most vulnerable poor in the country. The perennial problems that have dodged Fisp are the reasons many have suggested for an exit of the programme. Fisp has become a cash cow for those who are politically connected.
Apart from championing the resignation of the MEC chairperson and management, the Fisp scandal is one other crucial issue opposition parties and civil societies would do Malawians and tax payers a great service to probe with utmost urgency to avert further damage and malfeasance. This is an election year and political parties will do anything to reap where they did not saw. What is at stake here is that people want to retain power.
Now here is a president who swore to uphold and defend the Constitution in both spirit and letter. But he is the one leading the pack in breaching it left, right and centre. The Constitution is very clear about who is supposed to be in the Cabinet. But Thursday’s reshuffle where the Vice-President is left out of the Cabinet is a far cry from what the Republican Constitution calls for. Even if it is a known fact that President Peter Mutharika (APM) and his Vice Saulos Chilima have not been seeing eye-to-eye for over half a year, APM should not have openly shown that he is done with Chilima. If APM is not leading by example, is it not foolhardy to expect his Cabinet members and his other lieutenants to be expected to do so?
Again, I expect the opposition and civil society if they are indeed fighting for constitutionalism, to take the Executive to task for breaching that for which the President took an oath to defend and uphold. The rule of law has been thrown to the wind.