Malawi Govt Told Living in Denial Won't Help Fight Corruption

26 January 2020

Malawi government has been asked not to be in denial of rampant corruption following its reaction to the 2019 Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which measures perceived levels of public sector corruption.

Minister of Infomation Mark Botomani: Denial won't help corruption fight

The country has dropped by three places, from 120 to 123 out of 180 ranked countries with a score of 31 (of 100) in 2019 from 32 points in 2018.

But Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mark Botomani argued that the current administration has always maintained a zero-tolerance stance on corruption.

He said: "Transparency International measures corruption perceptions and not corruption per se. However, government takes the report very seriously. It must be emphasised that since the [Peter] Mutharika administration took over, it has maintained its stand on zero tolerance to corruption."

Government spokesperson's reaction has been condemned as being in denial as far as corruption perceptions are concerned.

In its extendec coverage of the Transparency International index rating Malawi poorly on its efforts to fight cforruption, flagship daily newspaper, The Nation, carried an editorial comment which observed that "financing to consolidate power or win elections appeat to be the key driver of corrupt practises."

The paper pointed out that the Political Parties Act, which has a probision that regulates handouts and compels parties to disclose sources of funding, is not implemented to the letter as it has been left to gather dust.

The editorial highlited that corruption is evil and retards economic growth and development.

Besides, the paper states, no Western donor or investor can put their money in a country that stinks corruption.

"This should be the more reason authorities should brainstorm on measures to win the fight instead of living ub denial and burring their heads in the sand like ostriches," reads the comment.

Addressing the media in Lilongwe last week, Jeff Kabondo, coordinator for the National Integrity Platform, a local affiliate of the global TI network, said the index demonstrates that the country is failing to tackle corruption.

He said countries that comprehensively and systematically enforce campaign financing regulations have had a high score on the CPI.

Said Kabondo: "Out there, perception of stakeholders and partners in development is low and the countries that have done well are those that are doing well in electoral integrity, political financing, checks and balances are in place and the private sector plays a big role in ensuring transparency and accountability in their transactions with government."

He said the country would have to deal with political financing challenges to bring integrity to political campaigns and effectively fight corruption, as well as empower citizens and protect activists, whistle-blowers and journalists.

The CPI is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide. It is a composite index, a combination of surveys and assessments of corruption, collected by a variety of reputable institutions.

It was estimated way back that corruption coupled with fraud and inefficiency was costing government 30 percent of its revenue or 5 percent of GDP.

Over the years high-level corruption has metamorphosed into an octopus with many sucker-bearing arms. A chain of bad guys in government network with suppliers fleece government of its revenue.

The earliest known case of the malpractice was in the Ministry of Education in the 1990s when K187 million was paid out to contractors who made bogus claims of building classrooms, teacher houses and school perimeter fences in various parts of the country.

The apex of such malpractices was in 2013 when Cashgate--the massive looting of state coffers through bogus claims-- was exposed. A subsequent audit by an international firm revealed that cashgate was rampant throughout the period 2009 to 2014, Bingu wa Mutharika's second term which also saw VP Joyce Banda assuming power after Bingu's death in April 2012.

Donor reaction was decisive. Likening Malawi's Public Finance management to a "leaking bucket", CABS-DfID, Norway, AfDB and World Bank--stopped giving budgetary support and donors started channelling their scaled-down aid off-budget, a loss of confidence in government's Account Number One.

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