It’s crazy trying to fill leaking bucket

Hon Folks, when development partners condemn our public financial management system, describing it as a “leaking bucket” and consequently shunning it, the right thing to do is to fix the holes.

That way we’d kill two birds—regain donor confidence and, in the same breath, contain wastage of public funds.

Imagine the difference if the 30 percent revenue which leaks out of government coffers annually was captured and put to productive use in education, agriculture or health! That is about what we have been getting from donors!

Sad to say, APM is in denial. So far, hard to pin-point anything new in sealing the leakages, even after donors ditched direct budgetary support and opted for off-budget financing of development projects, shunning the accursed Accounts Number One.

The President likes to boast that we are managing just fine on our own, without much donor support. On corruption, APM thinks it is only rising in the imagination of the good-for-nothing media.

Consequently, the same tools that failed to curb corruption in the past 24 years are the ones APM is still using. The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), from back in the days of the Bakili Muluzi’s government, swoops and preys on political enemies of the incumbent president.

But when it comes to busting high level graft in the government of the day, the ACB becomes as clumsy as the owl hunting in broad-day light.

It’s a problem the late Binguwa Mutharika, APM’s brother, brought to the fore when he questioned ACB’s statutory mandate to act independently of the State president, the hiring authority of ACB director.

Over the years it has become apparent that insulating the ACB director from the political influence of the State president is the key to safeguarding the independence of the ACB yet APM has vehemently resisted relinquishing powers of the hiring authority despite that being his pre-2014 election campaign pledge.

Meanwhile, as the bad guys continue looting the national coffers with impunity, government is acting like a mental case, trying to fill, not fix, the leaking bucket by pouring in more and more water.

We are probably the only country in the region where more and more public services, some very essential, are sold at the commercial rate. In the case of electricity, it’s even pegged to the dollar!

It’s a warped decision which already threatens the survival, let alone growth of Admarc which can’t compete on pricing with profit-driven vendors!

As for parastatals such as water boards that enjoy monopoly status, they don’t even blink when passing onto the public the cost of anything, including their hyper-inefficiency.

Now, thanks to Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe, there is another revenue drainer of focus—wasteful spending.  Yes, you heard me right:  wasteful spending by ministers and senior government officials hell-bent on living a Hollywood lifestyle at the expense of hardworking Malawians.

Gondwe wants the 1 000 litres of fuel allowance for Cabinet ministers chopped by 10 percent. He also thinks he and his colleagues will manage just fine flying business, instead of first class.

The good reason for this proposed change is to cut costs in the wake of the impending food shortage which comes on the heels of  failure by Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to meet its revenue targets—probably a sign that the economy is losing its lustre and may not grow by the touted 6 percent.

But I think the real reason is to make these folks donate to the election year spending on programmes such as the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy which MBC can talk about as APM’s achievement of the first term.

A free advice for Goodall:  Finance ministers who championed frugality in the past ended up burning their fingers.

Key to success is to ensure that the President, who unfortunately is  more wasteful—flying charter, going to UNGA with a whole village of cronies, travelling on a kilometre-long motorcade with police officers lining along the entire presidential route, etc, etc—supports the cost-cutting measures with the John Magufuli passion.

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