Funding to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has been cut by 14 percent in the proposed 2021/22 National Budget, a move analysts fear will compromise the Tonse Alliance administration’s anti-graft fight.
New ACB director general Martha Chizuma flanked by her deputy Elia Bodole and senior staff presented the institution’s budget shortfall before the budget cluster committee of the Legal Affairs and Government Assurance.
In the new budget set to roll out on July 1, Treasury has allocated K3.9 billion to the ACB against its proposed K4.6 billion, creating a deficit of K647 million or 14 percent.
In an interview after the meeting, Bodole said with such inadequate funding it will be challenging for the graft-busting agency to effectively carry out its functions.
He said: “We really would have loved if we could get to every district, but for us to do that, it hinges on the budget. If the budget is increased, then we will be everywhere in Malawi.
“Treasury has just taken same figures of the previous financial year, divided by 12 [months] and multiplied by nine [months] for the new financial year.”
Bodole said donors have supported the bureau with establishment of a forensic laboratory, but what is lacking is funding for obtaining licences.
Mulanje West member of Parliament (MP) Yusuf Nthenda (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP), who is co-chairperson of the cluster committee, said the deficit needs to be addressed by Treasury to ensure the bureau operates optimally.
He said it is hard to change the figures at the cluster committee level, but that in collaboration with the ACB they will engage Treasury on the matter.
Nthenda said the issue will be presented in Parliament for deliberations and considerations from Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu.
Reacting to the funding cut, University of Malawi professor of political science Happy Kayuni urged the Tonse Alliance administration to walk the talk on its commitment to fight corruption by adequately funding ACB.
He said President Lazarus Chakwera has publicly proclaimed that governance institutions such as the ACB will be adequately funded to fight corruption and promote rule of law.
Kayuni said brilliant leadership at the ACB will be rendered useless if the institution is denied desired funding. He said the expectation should be matching the same with resource allocation.
He said: “We have seen governments preaching against corruption, but paralysing graft fighting institutions with underfunding. Fighting corruption is not cheap. For people in the office to perform, they need resources.”
In a separate interview, governance expert Dr. Henry Chingaipe said most of the work may not require a lot of money, but the prosecution of cases needs significant funding.
He said: “The reduction in funding is across the board. There is no government ministry, department or agency [MDA] that has been given more money because of the modification of the financial year which has one quarter less.”
The ACB presentation made before the cluster committee showed that in the 2020/21 National Budget they were allocated K5.2 billion from K3.2 billion in the 2019/20 National Budget.
From the K5.2 billion, K1.7 billion was for personal emoluments and K3.5 billion for other recurrent transactions.
The ACB budget was not revised during the Mid-Year Budget Review and as at the end of April 2021, the total expenditure for the year amounted to K3.6 billion, representing 69 percent of the approved budget.
In the next fiscal year, the ACB said there are 852 corruption complaints to be handled and processed and that 314 corruption cases are expected to be investigated. It also said 136 of the investigations were completed.
The funding to ACB has in recent years been fluctuating as in 2019/20 discal year Treasury allocated it K3.7 billion while in 2017/18 financial year, the bureau’s funding dropped to K938 million from K2.4 billion allocated in 2016/17.
In the 2019 Global Corruption Barometer for Africa 2019 conducted by Transparency International it was established that more than half of Malawians think corruption is getting worse in their country.
In his article titled A Jaded Decade of State Capture published in The Nation in December 2019, renowned public prosecutor and certified fraud examiner Kamudoni Nyasulu said Malawi has in the past 10 years suffered absence of political and public service leadership.