‘Let’s deal with moral decay’

The Philosophy Department at Chancellor College hosted a public lecture titled Moral Decadence: Towards an Effective Compliance and Ethics Programme delivered to master of arts (MA) in applied ethics students by Vice-President SaulosChilima last week. Our News Analyst CHRISTOPHER NHLANE engaged dean of humanities JAPHET BAKUWA on how the programme will improve Malawi’s resource management systems. Excerpts:

The Philosophy Department at Chancellor College hosted the public lecture Moral Decadence

Q

:Briefly give the background to this programme?

A

:The MA in applied ethics programme is a new programme in the faculty of humanities. It was introduced in 2015, having noted that Malawi is facing serious moral problems, including the infamous 2013 Capital Hill Cashgate scandal. The programme was, therefore, developed to respond to the need for ethics education in Malawi. We believe there is a direct correlation between ethics and development. Thus, the programme aims at equipping students with knowledge, competence and skills so that they are able to identify moral problems prevalent in our nation and provide morally acceptable solutions to the same.

 

Q

:How can the academia help to enforce ethics compliance in the public finance management systems amid continued cases of corruption and resource abuse?

A

: There is general acceptance that there is moral decay all around us.  Both the public and private sectors are faced with moral problems. For the academia to be relevant to society, it has to respond to societal needs or problems. One of the ways we can be relevant is to develop academic programmes that respond to ethical issues in the workplace. It is for this reason that we introduced this programme since it endeavours to produce graduates who are sensitive to demand for ethics, graduates who have a moral propensity towards doing what is good for the nation. Such graduates cannot keep quiet, and say that it is not their concern where ethical violations are the order of the day, but will blow the whistle at the right time.

Moral decadence is manifesting in various ways in the public as well as private sectors. For instance, much of Malawi’s public funds are lost through corruption. If public servants can discharge their duties with the nation’s good at heart we would be heading towards economic independence and national development. Corruption stems from self-interest, and it benefits only a few. We need to join hands and fight this vice which is robbing our nation of development. We need an ethical culture if we are to develop economically, socially and politically.

Q

: What are some of the key causes of moral decadence in Malawi’s key economic sectors?

A

: In my opinion, self-interest and a disregard for the national good are two key factors fuelling Malawi’s moral decadence.

Q

:What’s your take on the Vice-President’s public lecture last Wednesday?

A

: It was spot on. He summarised the lecture succinctly in one sentence, “there

is no right way of doing the wrong thing. There is no better advice to citizens of Malawi than that. We need the government to take a leading role in condemning moral decay and promoting ethical behaviour among the citizenry. We need to take on board all actors, including politicians, public servants, corporate players, NGOs, traditional leaders and common people in our villages.

I believe that the MA in applied ethics programme in our faculty complements government’s development agenda.

Q

: Any gray areas?

A

: I believe that Malawians know there is moral decay [in the country] and would like to deal with the vice. When one accepts that they have a problem, it becomes easy to find a solution to the same. Government has admitted there is moral decay, let us all hold hands to deal with it.

Q

: Of what significance is Chilima’s engagement to the programme’s objectives?

A

: The Vice-President’s public lecture has challenged the department of philosophy, in particular, and the nation, at large, to provide solutions to moral decadence in the country. He said the success or failure of the MA in applied ethics programme should be measured by the impact it will have on the society as a whole. The graduates from the programme should go out there and make a difference.

Q

: Malawi continues to pay huge economic costs due to its untamed moral decadence. Are you satisfied with measures the government has in place to tackle the vice, especially in the public service?

A

: The cost of moral decadence is enormous both to the public and private sectors. A good example of moral decadence is Capital Hill Cashgate of 2013. As a nation we are still paying hugely because of some corrupt and selfish civil individuals who decided to steal public money. This is unacceptable and derails national development.

I believe that government is trying its best to deal with such ethical malpractices. The establishment of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is an indication that government is committed to fight corruption. The Public Finance Management Act of 2003 is another legal instrument to check on abuse of public funds. However, we need more players in dealing with the vice. We need all players on-board. I believe that the department of philosophy at Chancellor College has joined in the fight against corruption and unethical behaviour in public and private sectors.

Q

: What do you make of the Public Sector Reforms agenda?

A

: There is noticeable progress and we needed this initiative long time ago. The public service needs to be efficient and effective. However, the reforms would be deficient if ethics are left out. I suggest that the teaching of ethics should be part and parcel of the Public Sector Reform agenda. We need a public service that is professional and ethical. We also must demand ethical behaviour from players in the private sector. Unfortunately, ethics is a matter of the heart. It has to be imprinted on the hearts of everyone. We all need ethics.

Q

: Any last remarks?

A

: As with all good initiatives towards national development, it remains to the individual Malawians to develop an ethical attitude, to cultivate a propensity to do the right thing at the right time and with the right attitude. I join the Government, and all other stakeholders, to encourage my fellow public and private servants to have the nation’s good at heart as we discharge our duties.

 

 

 

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