Fighting a losing corruption battle

 

The recent 2017 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International has shown that Malawi is still a very corrupt country in Africa. This has caused worry in the donor community. They naturally think that their money goes into personal pockets instead of the intended purpose of helping the needy. Hence, some donors have pulled out while others have reduced their funding.

Malawians can remember well that when President Peter Mutharika came into power in 2014, he promised to decisively deal with corruption. Now—four years later— nothing has happened, instead, corruption has worsened. Even the President once conceded that corruption has worsened. This shows that either his fight against corruption has failed or has not been done at all. Therefore, his promise was part of the euphoria as he won the elections. Some people might say that the fault on corruption is not with the President and his government because they have continuously spoken against corruption. Fair enough. But talk without action serves no purpose.

Meanwhile, the President should know better that if he wants to fight corruption, the first step is to accept that indeed corruption is deep-rooted in the country. After acceptance, then he must find solutions. Unfortunately, the President seems to be in denial that corruption exists. Hence, he was once quoted blaming journalists for allegedly exaggerating in their reports about corruption. With such denial, it goes without saying that government might not waste time looking for ways and means to curb corruption, which they think is not real. This mindset gives a green light to would-be corrupt people.

It can be mentioned that one of the reasons, which makes government fail to stop corruption, is that corruption mostly takes place in the corridors of power of influence and the elites in leadership circles. The example so far is that people, who are answering corruption charges, are mostly the powerful elites.

While it is commendable that there are agencies such as the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB), which fight corruption, honestly speaking, their fight is too late since they come in after the corruption is already done. What the country needs are measures to nip corruption in the bud and that is prevention measures. The much championed government reforms seem to have failed and now there is not much talk about them. It must also be mentioned that what has worsened corruption is politics—with its culture of bribery and handouts. This is also done at the level of the presidency. There was a time journalists were invited to State House and at the end of the function each one of them got a khaki envelope with K50 000. Some journalists refused ‘the bribe’.

The problem with bribery and handouts by those in public offices is that there is no way they can use their own personal money. Instead they use public resources and in the process deny Malawians proper use of their taxes.

If President Mutharika and his government are willing to fight corruption, they must also be willing to listen to people so that the fight involves all Malawians. They must also not deal in suspicious businesses. For example, some foreign contractors make people raise eyebrows because such contractors seem to have permanent monopoly to work in Malawi. Such long-hall contractors force people to think that they have corrupted some government officials in high offices.

Lastly, government seems to have a very bad habit whereby, some people feel it has failed to fight corruption then it is better to join in. This makes curbing corruption a nonstarter.

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