United States of America Ambassador Virginia Palmer has called on leaders to take brave actions to expose and prosecute cases of corruption in the country.
Speaking on the occasion of her country’s 242nd independence anniversary in Lilongwe yesterday, Palmer appealed to Malawians to demand greater transparency and accountability from those in power.
She said she hoped that public sector reforms would accelerate the country to move away from business as usual policies that do not benefit farmers.
In an interview on the sidelines of the celebrations, Palmer lauded the independent and active head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), saying she would like to see the bureau fully staffed.
“I would like to see investigations carried all the way to their conclusions including prosecutions and convictions and when that happens, the signal goes out to people who are trying to steal that it won’t be tolerated,” she said.
However, Palmer did not make direct reference to the recent revelations that President Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were beneficiaries of a dirty deal of food rations at the Malawi Police Service.
A leaked ACB investigation report showed that DPP received K145 million from a supplier through a Standard Bank account whose sole signatory is Mutharika.
State House has confirmed the transaction and the account, but said there was nothing sinister as it was a donation from a well-wisher.
Palmer said deals that benefit political insiders rob Malawian children of their future.
“Business as usual, for example, poor policy choices that benefit traders at the expense of small farmers or deals that benefit political insiders rather than providing essential services to Malawi’s poor, will rob Malawi’s children and grandchildren of the brighter future they so deserve,” she said.
Palmer also spoke strongly on the need to speed up the reforms in the power sector to support the infrastructure investments that have come about through the Millennium Challenge Corporation $357 million energy compact.
These reforms include signing Power Purchase Agreements with Independent Power Producers using proper procurement procedures and implementing a cost reflective tariff.
“It’s also critical that Malawi implement a cost reflective electricity tariff and ensure Escom remain creditworthy and free from manipulation. If, but only if, these things happen, Malawi will be eligible for a new compact,” she said.
The MCC compact ends September 20 2018 after five years in which new transmission lines and rehabilitation of substations has taken place all over the country.
On his part, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Francis Kasaila said Malawi had greatly benefitted from the relationship with the US government in particular the $357 million energy compact.
“The government would like to give its commitment on the full completion of outstanding work on the compact before it comes to end. This project is here to expand access to power and reduce the cost of doing business,” he said. n