Does anyone really believe that a big company like Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) does not have a strategic plan for running the business?
I refuse to believe that the five water boards, Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), Malawi Housing Corporation and other statutory bodies (SBs) operate without strategic plans.
If they don’t, then government should fire their boards and chief executive officers. Indeed, if they do not have strategies, then the Public Enterprises Reform Unit (Permu) in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development should be shut down and its officials sent home to grow cassava or whatever it is they may be good at.
Yes, if the parastatals do not have strategic blueprints, the whole Department of Statutory Corporations is a bureaucracy that we do not need; it is simply a drain on public resources. It should also be deleted from the government system.
You see, Permu was established for very good reasons, including protecting and enhancing shareholder value in the parastatal sector by providing high quality business advice that enables the shareholder—mostly government—to hold SBs’ boards accountable for their financial performance.
Drawing its mandate from the Public Finance and Economic Management Act, the unit’s main task is to give financial effect to the shareholder’s development policies by improving fiduciary management as well as promoting institutional arrangements, financial policies and procedures and ensuring separation of commercial and non-commercial objectives in the sector while enforcing financial accountability, transparency and corporate governance.
And when you look at Permu’s mission of providing an array of enhanced parastatal financial performance and monitoring services aimed at reducing financial risks of commercial statutory organisations, one cannot help, but wonder where this mission is being carried out given the bodies’ embarrassing service delivery.
Permu promised so much and delivered so little. I mean, where is the dividend policy for parastatals that the unit was supposed to develop, popularise and enforce?
Where are the financial guidelines and coordination of the overall process for preparing financial service plans (business plans, annual reports and the shareholder letter of expectations) that the unit committed?
What happened to the reviews and the provision of the so-called independent financial advice on service plans, mid-year and annual performance reviews?
These and many issues that Permu was supposed to address were aimed at achieving several outcomes.
The outcomes include restructured statutory bodies capable of providing efficient and effective service delivery; accountable institutions with clear governance structures; profitable SBs without recourse to shareholders in terms of subventions and parastatals that paid dividends as returns on taxpayers’ investments.
But is there a sign, any sign please, even just a twitch, of any restructuring in the parastatals? Does corporate governance truly exist in our SBs?
Do you ever see efficient and effective service delivery being associated with our SBs? How many times do you hear of parastatals declaring dividends these days?
The parastatal policy holder itself, the Department of Statutory Corporations, should even be more ashamed of itself.
For too long, it has allowed itself to be a political yoyo. This department has literally failed the parastatal sector.
So, no madam Nwazi Mthambala—principal secretary of the Public Service Reforms Commission—I am not impressed at all with your 30-day ultimatum to parastatals for them to come up with strategies and possible solutions that would turn around their institutions.
What you said are mere political platitudes, some of which I will remind you: “After the 30 days, we will reconvene to review their [parastatals’] plans, which will include short-term, medium-term and long-term deliverables.”
What a bunch of empty rhetoric! Is Mthambala saying parastatals that are probably in the middle of their strategy implementation should shred their blueprints, put together another one within a month and start implementing it?
Mthambala’s politically driven cheap tough talk is exactly what is wrong with our public service. It moves with political winds; it is easily blown away by political dictates.
This is why unless we take politics out of our parastatals, the meetings that Vice President Saulos Chilima—the reforms champion himself—is having with parastatal bodies could be one big fat lie.
Because if politicians—not SB boards—can still hire and fire parastatal CEOs; if the boards continue to be appointed on political lines; if the ruling elite continue to abuse the organisations’ resources such as vehicles and, yes, if the governing party insists on dipping their dirty little fingers in the organisations’ procurement decisions, then we are all wasting each other’s time.
So, it is not bout about strategies madam PS. They have those. It is about kicking the politicians’ meddling fingers the hell out of our parastatals!
That is what they don’t have: the power to say a firm ‘No’ to a politician and get away with it.