Why some Malawians loathe paying taxes

The behaviour of the people manning the public purse does not inspire confidence to taxpayers. It is the reason some Malawians will, at every opportunity, try and evade or avoid paying taxes. But as a patriotic Malawian my heart bleeds whenever I see or come across people or institutions evading and avoiding paying taxes. Paying taxes whether to the central or local government is a civic duty which everyone ought to do with pride.

But when those guarding the purse are the first to deep their long fingers into the kitty, the taxpayer feels cheated and not encouraged to fulfill the noble civic duty of paying taxes.

The issue that has dominated the media over the past week is how K3.4 billion was dubiously allocated to only 86 members of Parliament without the House’s approval. And if it were not for some timely divine intervention, this money would have disappeared unnoticed into the pockets the few MPs.

On closer scrutiny it transpired that the majority of the 86 beneficiaries were those who voted against the Electoral Reform Bills in December last year. Each of the 86 constituencies was allocated a whopping K40 million through the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, a development which prompted some legislators to call on the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate the matter.

The vexing question was how the 86 constituencies or MPs were chosen. In Tumbuka parlance they say the response from the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe was “mphakumwa, mphakugeza”. Gondwe’s explanation was less than convincing. No wonder some MPs were baying for his ouster for “failing to executive his duties”.

His explanation was that he discussed the matter with the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa on the need to prioritise rural areas. Strictly speaking, which constituency in the country is developed? When people are made to drink water contaminated with faeces, as it happened in Lilongwe last year it is a clear indication of poor utility services in the cities.

The long and short of it is that the money was meant to be ‘a thank you’ to the MPs who helped to frustrate the electoral reforms. But that is just the first problem.

Following pressure from the opposition MPs, the Executive decided to distribute the K3.4 billion rural project funds to all constituencies. That is the second problem and a serious one for that. Government has simply legitimised an illegality. If it was wrong for Gondwe and Nankhumwa to allocate K3.4 billion to the 86 MPs, how does it become legal by just saying all the 193 MPs will share the money?

There is no way government which is failing to stock hospitals with enough drugs, employ graduates—not just nurses—buy learning and teaching materials, increase accommodation in public universities, give enough loans to all deserving students in universities, provide adequate utility services such as electricity and potable water to millions of people both in the rural and urban areas, can say it has K3.4 billion which it does not know what to do with. It is a joke that MPs can be silenced with a simple statement by the Executive that all the MPs will now share the loot. This is not how taxpayers’ money should be spent.

The opposition MPs should have rejected the government’s decision to distribute the K3.4billion to all the constituencies. But we all know with the elections around the corner, MPs want to be seen as having delivered on some of their wild and weird promises to the electorates.

This malfeasance at the highest level of government is the reason some individuals don’t want to pay tax.

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