The death knell of reforms has sounded

 

Being Vice-President of Malawi is a thankless job. The Constitution makes it so that the Veep really is not a deputy meaning that it is the president’s prerogative to give him something to do or not at all. Former president Joyce Banda learnt that the hard way and she had no choice but to gather sympathisers within the party and embark on her own political journey.

The animosity between the president and vice really rests on ambition of the presidency. But after the events of this week, I am sure most Malawians would like to think surely the position of the Veep cannot be so cursed.

 

One cannot help but conclude that things are not well between President Peter Mutharika and his Vice- President what with the timing of the removal of the Public Service Reforms secretariat responsibility from the office of the Veep to the Office of the President and Cabinet.

Just this past weekend, Saulos Chilima was quoted to have delivered a homily at his church which could be rightly concluded that it was addressed to the Democratic Progressive Party administration. Sure he mentioned the opposition as well but that is of no consequence.

According to the new Minister of Information Nicholas Dausi, the mandate of the Public Service Reforms Commission ended on December 31 and the reforms secretariat and implementation of reforms would remain at OPC.

I’m not one to call Dausi a liar because that would be disrespectful. But last time I checked, the reforms secretariat was reporting to the Veep and the commission and its offices are downstairs at Chilima’s Capital Hill building.

So what happens to the public service reforms in the absence of a key driver in the Commission and Chilima?

Who will whip the parastatals to perform and take them to account when they fail to deliver? Who will be the voice of reason to continue trimming the size of the civil service specifically stopping the willy nilly appointments of Principal Secretaries and bloat the top ranks even further?

With the absence of the Commission, Malawians should expect laxity in the implementation of the reforms instituted by the ministries and departments knowing there is a toothless OPC as overseer.

Chilima and APM himself have mentioned countless times that this was the 80th attempt at implementing public service reforms. The previous 79 times failed miserably due to lack of political will among other reasons.

It is safe to conclude that this 80th attempt at the end of the five years of this administration will have fared no better. OPC, headed by Lloyd Muhara whose only experience at the job is coming from the Lomwe belt, will have a tough job overseeing the implementation of the reforms.

Upon hearing the news that Chilima was no longer heading reforms I imagine a lot of public servants jumped with joy and rubbed their hands together in glee.

OPC will not follow up on submission of reports or even monitor implementation strictly. It will be business as usual.

The Commission comprising professionals knew its mandate would come to an end but saw the need for a permanent independent Reforms Commission to play the role of a sounding board and also oversight of the entire reforms agenda for the simple reason that implementing reforms has failed a whopping 79 times in the past due to poor oversight.

This independent commission has not been established and we should expect all the good work that Chilima and his commissioners did to go down the drain.n

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