Malawi: Ombudsman Decries Low Funding - Chakwera Assures Public Protector to Operate Freely

3 August 2020

The previous regime of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was suffocating the Office of the Ombudsman by underfunding and President Lazarus Chakwera has given the institution of governance hope as he has assured it that his administration will enable the public protector to operate freely and independently to fulfill their constitutional mandate.

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma - named Nyasa Times personality of the year in 2019 - led senior officials in her office to meet President Chakwera at the State House in Lilongwe on Friday where she pointed out that underfunding has been one of the major challenges in operations of her officer.

"The office has suffered from very low funding for a very long time but the 2019/20 allocations was the worst for the office in the sense that our funding was drastically reduced by almost 70 percent.

"There were times that the office was supposed to be getting K30 million but we ended to get K2 million," said Chizuma.

She said this affected and continue to affect their operations.

Chizuma said during the meeting with President Chakwera, he reiterated his commitment to good governance and "to listen to voices of caution as he is aware he needs such voices to govern this country well."

Ombudsman assured the Malawi leader her office's continued support for his government through their "continued loyalty to God, the law and our call to duty."

Chizuma has -within a short period she has been at the helm of the Office of the Ombudsman- managed to resuscitate the institution of a public protector to relevance as a governance and oversight institution through implementing progressive strategies such as the "Repositioning Agenda" - which involved shift of focus to investigating maladministration cases in service delivery.

The Ombudsman has been following several reports of abuses in the local government system, with millions of taxpayers' money squandered through mismanagement and outright embezzlement.

Chizuma announced that she will be investigating how all the district councils in the country have been spending taxpayers' money in the past five years.

In March, she conducted an investigation on how street children in the country have been abandoned by the State and ordered the State to remove all children from the streets by March next year.

Another investigation, titled Woes of the Womb, looking at how women were losing uteruses at alarming rate at major hospitals followed in August. That report originated from media reporting of the subject and this was a sharp contrast to positions of many public officials who often wait for official complaints before taking any action.

She is now investigating government on irregularities and discrimination in recent promotions of teachers.

The public protector's office said she will follow up on how taxpayers' money has been used through Local Development Fund, Constituency Development Fund and District Development Fund.

The key highlight for 2019 was how the Office of Ombudsman successfully spearheaded war against the famous Tractorgate--a public finance management scandal in which government spent $50 million (about K37 billion) obtained from an Indian bank procuring tractors meant to serve poor farming communities, but which ended up being sold at below market prices to senior government officials, businesspersons and politicians.

Through strategic public interest litigation leading to a landmark Supreme Court of Appeal decision ordering the Ministry of Agriculture and Water and Development to issue a public apology for the Tractorgate. The Ministry of Agriculture subsequently complied with the decision in July 2019.

More From: Nyasa Times

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