Deepening side-effects of Cashgate, the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill, seem to have finally caught up with the department of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife whose former boss was three weeks ago convicted of stealing about K63 million from public coffers.
Lately, the newly renamed ministry responsible for the two departments has come under the microscope following the arrest, trial, conviction and jailing of former principal secretary Tressa Namathanga Senzani for money laundering and theft.
Ironically, the ministry has come under the scrutiny of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) at a time the majority of parks and wildlife workforce, especially in remotely located protected areas, continue to languish in poor and inadequate houses nationwide.
Calls for better housing, allowances and other living conditions welcomed Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa everywhere he went early this week when he visited Mzuzu Nature’s Sanctuary, Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve and Nyika National Park.
During the fact-finding tour in the Northern Region, the minister confessed to have inherited a problem-laden and deteriorating system where most of the workers are nesting in protected areas—predominantly situated in remote settings—where “houses are in short supply and poor state”.
However, the recurrent tales of public servants living in cracked, leaky mud-walled thatched houses as recounted by game ranger Stein Phiri at Vwaza and nearly 15 workers scrambling for “one or two houses” as narrated by Alfred Mangani in Mzuzu saw the minister offer a glimpse of how the infamous looting of public funds at Capital Hill is making matters worse.
Confronted by the same cry at Nyika on Wednesday, Nankhumwa said: “When I came to the ministry, I found numerous problems, which we are trying to solve. Poor housing is just one of them and it is widespread in nearly all establishments under Parks and Wildlife.”
The parks and wildlife assistants—a workforce which has to do with horrendous housing, unreliable water and electricity supply, under-resourced schools, a dispensary without health personnel and a field allowance of K10 000 for patrolling the bushy setting for 15-20 days—were spotted shaking heads with hopelessness and disapproval as the minister said construction of the desired houses in some parks stalled as funding vanished mysteriously.