To step up the graft fight, Malawi Law Society (MLS) has partnered three civil society organisations (CSOs) in a consortium United Against Corruption (UAC) to collectively fight serious and organised corruption in the country.
MLS has joined Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Church and Society Programme (CSP) of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia and Youth and Society (YAS) in the initiative so far welcomed by opposition political parties while government has said it would be premature to comment on the scheme.
The UAC leadership has argued that institutional frameworks such as parliamentary oversight committees, relatively weaker procurement and accounting systems and a culture of impunity have created a fertile environment for corruption.
In an interview yesterday, MLS president Alfred Majamanda said: “Essentially, it [UAC] is a project that we will handle together, tackling serious and organised corruption in Malawi. You will get the details in due course.
“It is one way of MLS and CSOs contribution to the nation in assisting in dealing with a serious threat to national development which is corruption. How this will be operationalised you will get to know in due course.”
On his part, YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka said the consortium would seek to bring sanity in public institutions such as Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) which have been tainted by reports of corruption related to procurement, among others.
He said: “We are putting our efforts together to help clean up this corruption-stinking public entity.”
CHRR executive director Timothy Mtambo said the civil society will not watch public resources being abused.
“This consortium has been formed with an objective of complementing the continued accountability effort being done, especially or focusing on organised and serious corruption in Malawi,” he said.
Mtambo, one of the fierce critics of President Peter Mutharika and his administration, said corruption was worsening because government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) were seeing the leadership engaging in suspected cases of corruption, including revelations about the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) getting a K145 million deposit into a bank account whose sole signatory is the President from Malawi Police Service (MPS) food rations supplier Zameer Karim of Pioneer Investment.
The formation of UAC comes against a background of some CSOs demanding the resignation of ACB director general Reyneck Matemba for alleged lukewarm approach to the fight.
But Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, the official government spokesperson, said it was too early to comment on the initiative as its terms of reference were not known.
He said: “We don’t know what their intention is or what they stand for, so it is only right and proper for us just to wait and see first what happens before making a comment on the issue.”
But United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Ken Ndanga commended the scheme, saying individuals and groups are at liberty to join hands in dealing with corruption which continues to haunt the country.
United Transformation Movement (UTM) secretary general Patricia Kaliati also welcomed the initiative, stating that corruption was stunting the country’s development.
Matemba is on record as having said more needs to be done to tame graft in the country.
He said: “I want to be realistic. As a country, we have a long way to go. We have a problem and I think the first thing we have to do is to accept that we have a problem. If we continue denying or remaining in a state of denial, then I think we are not doing a good job.
“Our moral standards have gone down because you might put in all mechanisms dealing with bureaucratic procedures, cutting red tape, changing the laws, prosecuting people, but we will be chasing shadows if people decide to live a life without ethics.”
On his part, law professor Dan Kuwali said the country has over the years put much emphasis on investigating and prosecuting corruption, without rewarding public servants and whistle-blowers.
Kuwali, a Brigadier General in the Malawi Defence Force, said there is need to reward those that have manifested professionalism in their dealings.
He said: “We need reform of our institutions, capacity building of individuals and also the way we do things, we need a mindset change.”