When I walk into the thick of trouble, keep me alive in the angry turmoil. With one hand strike my foes, With your other hand save me. Finish what you started in me, God. Your love is eternal—don’t quit on me now. – Psalm 138:8
These past two weeks, the Malawi media was awash with reports of the plunder of Covid-19 pandemic funds, specifically allowances. And instead of President Lazarus Chakwera speaking to the nation on the state of the pandemic in the country, he was compelled to deal with the issue of allowances, the call to duty of civil servants, and integrity of persons mandated with government issues.
What is all the incredulity about, one might ask? As flustered and flabbergasted as Malawians were during the Cashgate saga, Malawians are open-mouthed again that some unscrupulous and selfish individuals appear to have mismanaged incredibly obscene amounts of money meant for Covid-19 relief. In the middle of large members of the Malawi population catching the virus, and increasing numbers of them dying, it is depressing that there are some people that are diving into the pool of money meant to buy protective gear for health care workers, medicines for Covid-19 patients, and other needed items like sanitisers.
“Every week, I use these weekly updates to inform you of the actions we have taken in the last seven days to save the lives of those infected with Covid-19 and to stop the spread of the virus,” President Chakwera said in his opening February 14, 2021 weekly address to the nation.
He applauded the drop in the positivity rates and increased numbers of those recovering from Covid-19 and praised the work of health personnel. The President informed Malawians of the 100 000 additional AstraZeneca vaccines coming from the African Union next week and for use for the protection of Malawi health workers.
The President spent the majority of his address on his “outrage over the alleged abuse of funds and lack of financial accountability for the same by certain clusters (that were) entrusted with K6.2 billion for tackling the pandemic”. Ironically, the government has released another K17 billion to fight the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sadly, due to shoddy accountability, shown through lack of supporting documents and failure to maintain proper records of how such critical funds were disbursed, it has compelled President Chakwera to suspend all cluster heads, with heads rolling at Department of Disaster Management (Dodma) and the technical co-chair of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
Another eyesore tackled by Chakwera was waste, abuse, and theft of public resources that he labelled as “behaviours that have poisoned our values as a nation and have corroded our entire government system”.
The President said “for 27 years, the government system has been rigged with bad or old laws, procedures, policies, and contracts that are cleverly designed to not only facilitate waste, abuse, and theft, but to also protect those who engage in these acts”. He paraded three systems at work in the government that are outlaying spoilers in the way things are done in Malawi.
These are the system of allowances, the system of procurement, and the system of civil servants employment contracts.
The President has since added to the task force on Covid-19 representatives of civil society organisations and watchdog bodies like the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Malawi Human Rights Commission.
Additionally, a very welcomed move was that of delegating to the Vice-President Saulos Klaus Chilima, who is also Minister of Public Sector Reforms, to coordinate a special task force formed in consultation with Chakwera and to prioritise a review of three villainous government systems. He expects recommendations on his desk for their overhaul within three months.
“The Malawian people, put me here to bring this kind of radical change, and whether anyone likes it or not, change has come”.