The journalists who told the public last week that President Joyce Banda, in the mighty name of accountability, has demanded that ministers should submit monthly reports detailing the performance of their ministries, may just have to go back to OPC and State House for follow up questions.
Among the questions should be: What will the President do with the reports? Will she, in turn, make the reports public and inform the Malawians what action she will have taken on ministries that are not delivering on their mandate, which, by the way, are the majority.
Will she fire the non-performing ministers? Do all ministries have anything that resembles a strategic plan which has deliverables upon which to base such reports and monitor performance?
In the absence of answers to these questions, I am afraid to say members of my profession, journalism, fed the public last week a menu comprising a little pie of propaganda cooked to engineer a positive image of the President in the face of chronic failures in the economy, thereby manufacturing consent among Malawians.
This reminds of Italyâ€™s World War II fascist leader Benito Mussolini who the media showed working furiously late into the night in his office and winning a game of chess against tough opponents, just to portray a positive image among the population.
Have we not been told this week that JB is among 100 great thinkers of the world in the league of US president Barrack Obama, according to some obscure magazine from some corner of the world?
The issue of a president ordering ministers to present reports on performance is not new. As the media rightly noted, the late Bingu wa Mutharika also demanded reports from his first Cabinet in 2004.
As far as I am concerned, that was the last time the public heard of the matter and I can bet you, even on this one, it is the last time that Malawians will hear about it as it has served its purposeâ€”propaganda.
In any case, where will JB find time to read the reports and give intelligent feedback to ministries when almost every other day she is on the road, either opening some lowly seminar or personally distributing maize flour to some old lady which offers a fantastic photo op and makes good TV?
Letâ€™s face it. A majority of government ministries are there first of all as tools to be used by presidents to reward fellow politicians after a gruelling campaign and of course, offer employment to fellow Malawians.
It is common knowledge that those ministries and government departments that are supposed to deliver a service to Malawians offer a below-par one because motivation is rock bottom due to low salaries and most civil servants think is how to make a quick buck for survival in a rotten economy.
The environment in which the civil servants work is, to put it mildly, atrocious. Go to any randomly-selected government department and you will be greeted by a sorry sight of dirty broken-down vehicles whose home should be a junkyard and broken chairs lumped around some corner with dirty walls that may have seen a fresh coat of paint a century ago, literally.
You will also likely find civil servants exchanging one overused copy of that dayâ€™s newspaper and doing nothing as they do not even have a simple line-up of tasks to be achieved on any given day but are in office merely to report their presence. Some, whose work involves going to the field gathering data and helping Malawians, cannot remember when they last went out due to erratic funding, unless some NGOs or UN agency has a project with them.
In this horrible situation, would JB be justified to demand a report from anybody? It was a fine piece of propaganda using the oldest trick in the book and, sadly, my profession swallowed it hook, line and sinker.