We are still in Salima but this time attending a workshop on participatory public expenditure tracking to ensure that the money Joseph Mwanamvekha has planned to source and spend in the 2019-2020 fiscal year is not abused.
Our workshop lead facilitator, Professor Xenophobia Apartheid, is from South Africa and typically South African. His brief biography circulated together with the workshop agenda and training notes touts him as an accomplished economic governance expert, development strategist, antiapartheid and antidiscrimination campaigner, and social marketing specialist.
During the introductions session, Prof Apartheid requested us to simply address him casually as Xeno (for Xenophobia). We, the participants, love him. He is affable and down-to-earth in his teaching, sorry, facilitation approach.
In his last presentation yesterday, Xeno demonstrated to us why he thinks Malawi’s proposed budget will not develop Malawi or improve the lot of Malawians; not even build stadiums for the two prioritised private football clubs from Blantyre; not buy medicines and emergency food stuffs.
“That sounds sinister,” protested Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), “How can you make such a downcast forecast?”
“Concern noted,” said Xeno with crocodile coolness, “Any other concerns, comments or questions?”
The workshop room was graveyard quiet, except for gulp-gulp sounds from participants who were drinking water provided freely, curtsey of the World Monetary Bank, funders of the workshop.
“Before coming to this great country,” Xeno said, “I did my preparation. I knew I would meet a few diehard nationalists, who believe any criticism of their country by a foreigner is unwelcome. This is normal and expected everywhere in the world. However, before you condemn me, hear me out.”
We were all quiet. Then, Professor Dr Abiti Joyce Befu asked Professor Xenophobia Apartheid to continue.
“Thanks Madam, Professor. My argument is based on an extensive literature review I conducted in preparation for this assignment.
“In most official documents, Malawi government and World Monetary Bank officials acknowledge that over 30 percent, 33 percent to be precise, of Malawi’s budget goes to corruption, which you call here Cashgate. Am I wrong?”
“Go ahead, Prof,” Nganga urged.
“You are right,” I said, adding, “One of our former directors of prosecution ever said something to that effect!”
“Even your judiciary system is corrupt,” judges themselves have ever told the media.
Like laboratory zombies, we nodded in unison.
“Apart from that, official expenditure and audit reports indicate that half of Malawi’s budget goes to recurrent expenditures, such as salaries for civil servants, parliamentarians, chiefs, among others. So you can see that already, over 80% of the budget expended.”
“True,” Professor Dr Befu said.
“Then audit reports indicate that around 10 percent of Malawi’s budget, which translates to 173 billion kwacha of the 2019-2020 budget, is spent on executive internal and external travels, allowances, and incidentals,” Xeno said.
“Go deeper, Xeno,” I said.
“So, we if add that, we only remain with 7% for development activities. Remember that I have not factored in debt repayment.”
“Shocking,” Nganga said dejectedly.
“So here is how your 2019-2020 budget expenditure outlook looks like,” Xeno said projecting summary slide for us all to appreciate.
“So, Professor Apartheid, what needs to be done to ensure budgeted money goes where it must?” Jean-Philippe asked.
“As citizens of this beautiful and peaceful republic, be vigilant, know that you are part of the solution to all your country’s problems. Get organized. Fight. Fight and demand budgetary accountability now. Social accountability promotes budgetary accountability and develops society.
“Ask your members of parliament, councilors, chiefs, anticorruption, and grievance redress agencies to exercise their legal oversight mandate in earnest. Don’t forget to get the media on your side.
“By just halving cashgate related financial wastage, there will be good money for development, including building or repairing bridges and buying food for the poor.
“More importantly, don’t smile at corruption by ‘biggifying’ the participants. Always hold government guilty of budgetary mismanagement until proven otherwise.
“I rest my case.”
“Rest in peace, Xeno!” Nganga shouted, jokingly.