23 August 2017

Malawi: Credibility On Malawi Govt Claims That Reforms Are On Track Damaged - Admarc Weighed Down By K37bn Loans, Needs Restructiring

The credibility of the claims by the Chief Secretary to the Government Lloyd Muhara that the success rate on implementation and effectiveness of Public Service Reforms is at 85 percent has been damaged with reports that State produce trader Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) saddled with a debt of K37bn with the banks and is failing to roll out reform.

This was disclosed at a week-long Sectoral Conference on the Implementation of the Public Sector Reforms underway in the capital Lilongwe.

When he opened the conference on Monday, Muhara said government was impressed with the progress made since the reforms were launched on February 11 2015, stating the success rate stood at 85 percent.

But on Tuesday, Reforms Unit chief director Seodi White pointed out those reforms at Admarc "are not working" due to what she called "institutional set-up."

White said there is need for Admarc to be "restructured" and engage "business masters" to help it in various areas.

Her remarks followed disclosure by Admarc acting CEO Margret Roka Mauwa that the grain marketer has been selling maize at almost give-away prices it is a sick baby which depends on borrowing from the banks and is in financial turmoil following huge debts with unpaid loan of K37 billon and interest charges of K8 billion.

The Nation newspaper in its editorial comment on Wednesday again criticised the reforms, saying the success story claimed by government is "not adding up".

The paper said such "twist and turns" to public reforms story "put to question the credibility" of the claims by government that the reforms were on track.

"It is not easy to explain what formula the Chief Secretary to the Government used to compute the success rate with challenges at institutions such as Admarc which is currently weighed down by a K37 billion loans," reads the comment in part.

It said government did not do its homework, otherwise, it would have known that Admarc would need restructuring to effectively and efficiently implement the reforms.

"It does not reflect well on government to approve reforms in areas of infrastructure, financing, commercial and social functions for Admarc only to backtrack few months later, claiming the reforms cannot work in some institutions because of their current setup," the paper pointed out.

It questions the 85 percent success rate Muhara touted about if the reforms are failing in some institutions.

The newspaper recently also reported that the Public Sector Reforms Programme is "barely breathing "months after the initiative moved to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), effectively weaning them from the direct supervision of Vice-President Saulos Chilima.

Attaching weight to the interviews with multiple sources--including local government councils, OPC; ministries, departments and agencies (MDA)--the paper reported that there is little contact between the reforms unit at the OPC and implementing agencies.

Ralph Mhone, a member of the parliamentary committee on Governance Assurance and Public Sector Reforms, said there is "nothing moving on the ground".

Mhone, a lawyer and Nkhata Bay Central (People's Party-PP) legislator, added that as an oversight committee, they are finding it hard to track the status of the reforms.

"There is need for the unit to come up with a timeline on implementation plan. There is also need for interaction with the committee. These exchanges are good for the exchange of ideas," he said, adding that his committee has only met the current Chief Director once.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said public sector reforms have good intentions; but there is poor implementation.

He said as quoted by The Nation: "The reforms were politicised and they are not bearing the desired fruits. We need political will to bring about radical governance and civil reforms."

Lewis Dzimbiri, professor of public administration specialising in industrial relations and human resource management and development at the University of Malawi's Chancellor College, said it is hard for the public to know what progress is being made.

"I am an independent assessor on public service delivery. I can say there are a lot of changes going on in ministries and departments, which people might not notice," he said.

Political analyst Henry Chingaipe said lack of publicity or availability of it cannot be a benchmark.


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