The buck stops at the one at the helm

Harry S. Truman (1884–1972) who served as the 33rd President of the United States from April, 1945 to January, 1953 is rated as one of the 10 greatest presidents the US has ever had. Truman is best known for his 10 great achievements.

Under the presidency of Truman, the US engaged in an internationalist foreign policy, which was a departure from its policy of isolationism. His tenure as president was dominated by the Cold War in which he adopted tactics of containment of Soviet expansion. His Truman Doctrine helped eliminate the Communist threat in Greece and Turkey; and he successfully handled the Berlin Blockade by responding to it with the Berlin Airlift which forced the Soviets to lift the blockade.

Truman also strongly supported the creation of the United Nations. In 1945, he helped establish the UN as had been planned by his predecessor Franklin Roosevelt. He also helped establish the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). Its aim was to contain Soviet expansion and to build new security structures in support of democratic ideals. NATO remains an influential international organization.

On the domestic front, Truman is renowned for ending racial segregation in the United States Armed Forces and establishing the National Security Council, the famous CIA and the NSA. 

But Truman’s achievements are not the subject of discussion here. Rather it is his down-to-earth approach to things, for his pragmatism; his quick acceptance of both good and bad under his leadership. Truman is the man who popularised the phrase “The buck stops here”. He kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. The phrase refers to the notion that the president has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions. In Malawi, APM takes all the credit for all the achievements the country has made since May 2014. These include stabilising the economy , reducing the inflation rate,  establishing community colleges, constructing roads and bridges and promoting 20 000 teachers. In the same vein, APM also ought to be blamed for all the mess the country has found itself into. The buck stops at him.

It is the reason when the UK based Baker Tilly audit and financial advisory firm discovered in 2013 that K24 billion had been siphoned out of the national coffers in what is now known as Cashgate during the six month period (from April to September 2013), the blame was put on the then president JB. This, as we all know, is despite the fact that Cashgate started in 2009, according to findings by another forensic audit and advisory firm, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC). PwC discovered that as much as K577 billion later reduced to K236 billion could not be accounted for between 2009 and 2012. But the APM administration has done all it can to sweep this under the carpet. PwC mentioned that 13 firms needed to be further investigated in connection to the thievery of taxpayers’ money for which donors rightly describe the national budget as a leaking bucket. Transparency International still lowly ranks Malawi in its corruption perception index for the country’s kid gloves treatment of corruption.

This week, Afrobarometer issued findings of how well African States are performing in delivering public services that citizens say they want. The study conducted between 2016 and 2018 found that Malawi performed poorly in several areas which included perceived disrespectfulness on public services where Malawi is the worst in the region at 34 percent. 

It is the same story on improvement in State services since the last survey. Malawi scored the worst at 14 percent while Tanzania was rated the best.

The Malawi Police Service did not escape scrutiny in the survey on reported timeliness of police assistance. Again, Malawi rocked the bottom rack at 14 percent.  

These findings and many more not mentioned here are a huge indictment on the country’s public sector performance. But the buck stops at nobody but APM. Just as he gets all the credit for the development projects, he should also take the blame for all the areas where the country has faltered as the Afrobarometer survey has shown. Any tenant at Plot Number One should borrow a leaf from Truman and keep a sign with the phrase ‘the buck stops at me’ on his presidential desk.

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