Being bolder to do better on corruption in Malawi: British High Commissioner’s views

On May 12, the British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted the first ever anti-corruption summit. The summit recognised that corruption is a global issue with no country immune or without responsibilities.

Michael Nevin, British High Commissioner to Malawi

Michael Nevin, British High Commissioner to Malawi

The Summit set out to galvanise international efforts to expose corruption, punish those involved and drive out a culture of corruption. Group of 20 countries in particular recognised the need to do more in their own backyards.

The summit made historic agreements, including increased transparency of beneficial owners of companies; sharing tax information to deter evasion; exposing lawyers, real estate agents and accountants who facilitate corruption; tracking down stolen assets; and launching a new Anti-Corruption Coordination Centre.

There was a strong recognition too of the importance of international cooperation, particularly helping developing countries in a co-ordinated effort.

Malawians are among the victims of corruption, fraud and theft. They can cite many examples—the corrupt theft of funds from government accounts, the theft of drugs, inflated or non-existent procurement contracts, ghost workers, dishonest claims by office-holders for rental refunds and bogus allowances claims by public servants.

“Well wishers” sometimes can sometimes be a misnomer for shady cartels out for mutual self-enrichment.

“State security” excuses are also sometimes used as a convenient cover for self-enrichment. In one case, the cost of transporting security equipment was so inflated it would have been cheaper to give each piece its own first class seat on an aeroplane!

No matter the method, the impact is the same on Malawians. Various percentages are quoted, but they all amount to significant losses from the Malawi public purse—money which could have supported self-development and reduced the need for aid.

The cancer of corruption has sadly spread since I was lasted posted here. Many of the governance indicators show a downward trend. Malawians complain they cannot get a service without hearing “zam’manja?”

Malawi risks heading down a dangerous road, as the worrying failure to bring to justice the murderers of Issa Njauju perhaps attests to.

There has been some progress. We should not underestimate the achievements of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the ACB in prosecuting those involved in “Cashgate”.

There are signs of long over-due tougher action against Malawian officials involved in fraud and theft. President Mutharika has been clear that he will take action against any of his officials and close advisers suspected of corruption.

While President Mutharika sets the tone and the resolve through his words and actions, it is not his responsibility alone. Officials, elected representatives, business owners, civil society, the international community and the public all need to play their part.

We need to be bolder on this agenda to reverse Malawi’s fortunes. Perhaps the following ten actions are worth considering?

  1. a genuine zero-tolerance approach that lowers the barfor firing officials and their advisers (e.g. through the civil service and parliamentary codes, a more robust judicial services commission) with greater emphasis one ethical behaviour expectations and performance;
  2. increasing  prevention by enforcing performance management systems and sanctions for not implementing audit recommendations;
  3. blending criminal and civil legal procedures in a more strategic approach to attacking those involved in corruption;
  4. transparent tendering of all government contracts, including of security equipment, with measures to prevent “insider trading” and conflicts of interest;
  5. greater investigative use of assets declarations and of “explanation of wealth” provisions in the Corrupt Practices Act, including assets overseas;
  6. blacklisting from any government contract those companies suspected of past or present improper conduct; and refusing to accede to their payment claims for alleged work done;
  7. providing adequate funding to and up-skilling of the investigating, prosecuting and judicial authorities and the Financial Intelligence Unit, while changing a culture which prevents much better coordination and collaboration among them and the Malawi Revenue Authority;
  8. strengthening and updating the Corrupt Practices and Anti-Money Laundering Acts, and passing an amended Political Parties Registration and Regulation Act;
  9. to avoid accusations of political interference, whether legitimate or not, strengthen institutional independence, of the ACB, the DPP and the Auditor-General in particular, taking them out of formal or informal executive management oversight (creating perhaps an equivalent of the UK’s independent Crown Prosecution Service) and checking executive powers of appointment and dismissal;
  10. providing the means and confidence for citizens, including through technology, to expose, report and monitor follow-up to corruption.

There is not one magic solution to boost Malawi’s development. But the strategic impact of measures to prevent fraud, theft and corruption would be significant.

We recognise in the UK that we need to be bolder to do better. And that we need to work together globally. Malawi can be bold too, as part of a greater national and international effort.

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11 thoughts on “Being bolder to do better on corruption in Malawi: British High Commissioner’s views”

  1. Winston Msowoya says:

    Frankly,if the Western donor nations could insert stringent rules over their finances ,Malawi and other African nation’s could have stopped inflicting unprecedented economic corruption in their countries .The British High Commissioner’s Anti Corruption Summit,is by no means a catalyst for neutrorising uncontrolled and tragic corruption.So Mr.gonapamuhanya,the fact that the colonizer stole much of our resources are Malawi leaders obliged to steal public funds randomly?And if money stolen from Africa ends up in the West,where therefore,is the money stolen from Malawi ends up? No matter how many summits,the British High Commissioner would hold,corruption in Malawi is irreversible because it has spread like cancerous malady from the lowest officers to the top most leaders.It is only through military bloodless coup that would end this barbaric clan-led regime and replace it with an interim government that will work to write the new Constition and lay down procedures for National Peaceful General Elections within a year.Peter Mathanyula is idiotically drunk with power that puts him into unpredictable situation.Sooner the better otherwise our financial institutions will be paralyzed and become largely unworkable.

  2. Kenkkk says:

    I know you are being diplomatic but the biggest culprit here is Peter himself and his leadership. As many others have pointed out, he speaks only what he thinks the west or donors want to hear but no actual action on the ground. No action because he is himself heavily involved in the corruption.

    The analyst has hit the nail on Peter. He and his dpp gurus are the most corrupt and for that reason, he is watering down all tough bills which would have made Malawi more democratic and instilling more good governance. Why is he afraid?

    The next corrupt tier are our MPs, they could have tightened the laws but why hang themselves? They are the most selfish people who don’t care about the poor in the country. Only making themselves rich as if they will go to the grave with the money. All tough bills for the benefit of Malawi are being shot down or adulterated by these greedy MPs who have been bribed by the most corrupt rotten govt.

    It is high time big heads started to roll, then we will believe you Peter. And once you are out of govt, your head will also roll. We will revive all your previous corrupt dealings.

  3. Bwande says:

    Here is some heartfelt advice coming from a donor nation representative. You can see the tone and ambassador Nevin seems to know very well Malawi’s root problems than we ourselves can imagine or ponder to resolve. Unfortunately, it is hitting some deaf ears at State House and capital hill. Sad

  4. Jeany Mangame says:

    Not Good at all

  5. CHEWA FEDERAL FRONT says:

    Yes, Your Excellency, our president has indeed set the tone; but he must now lower that threshold/bar and begin mass sackings of those caught up in corruption or theft. Its gonna be brutal, ghastly even.
    It is estimated that over 30% of Malawi government financial resources are stolen annually (Fahad Assan et al, 2003), implying that if this problem were addressed the impact would be far-reaching.
    Putting politics aside, APM needs to get TOUGH, “mentally” (- a weird thing to say about a former “distinguished” professor of law), if he is gonna make a dent on corruption/theft.
    Sir, the last 3 post-MCP decades (since1994) has been a period of real NIGHTMARES for ordinary folks in the country; so, thanks for your concern.

  6. Jacob says:

    MALAWI WOULD NOT BE A STATE WITHOUT CORRUPTION

    MALAWI EXIST, BREATHE, LIVE BY AND DEPEND ON CORRUPTION

    FOREIGNERS MUST BE THE MOST CAREFUL AS YOU ARE A PRIME TARGET

    ATTN!… DO NOT INVEST YOUR MONEY IN OUR COUNTRY.. MALAWI IS RANKED
    ‘THE RISKIEST INVESTOR DESTINATION IN THE SADC’ OF AFRICA.. THE JUDICIAL
    SYSTEM WILL NOT HELP YOU IN ANY DISPUTES.. WILL ALWAYS HELP THE LOCAL
    CITIZEN REGARDLESS OF THE DUSPUTE..MALAWIANS SUPPORT MALAWIANS NO
    MATTER!..

    BOTSWANA, TANZANIA, ZAMBIA, ANGOLA, KENYA AND RWANDA ARE MUCH
    BETTER CHOICES

    ALSO MALAWI HAVE SOME HARSH LAWS SURROUNDING HUMAN RIGHTS!..
    Mozambique and South Africa are much intelligent society…

  7. Che Wanimiliyoni says:

    If govt allows nobody to seek a mere traditional chief para-services without a consultation fee (chabwalo) while on govt salary do you expect somebody to talk to well trained civil servants without consultation fees? Illegalise this premitive culture then you will see locals resisting palm-oiling govt officials for any service.

  8. The Analyst says:

    O……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..O
    “The message you have given us from the Lord is good.” – Isaiah 39:8

    Sadly no one is listening or wants to listen,
    . . . coz they are so deeply involved in this evil you now speak against, that they have chosen to close their ears. The most unfortunate part is that even those who are expected to help curb the vice, are involved in it.
    …………………………………………………………………………
    Rightly observed that APM has set the right tone againt corruption . . .
    . . . but a right tone that’s not complemented with right and consistent action is, in actual fact, a confused hence wrong tone. Simply put, APM speaks but does, or is the opposite!
    Truth is . . .
    . . . only a corrupt and thieving leader would celebrate ACB’s lack of independence. And this is exactly what APM did when his MPs voted against ACB’s independence.
    . . . only a leader with fat-skinned skeletons in their closet would vehemently and angrily oppose a suggestion that Access to Information Bill, be applied retrospectively.
    . . . only a leader who just wants to be seen to be doing something, when in fact he is doing nothing; speaks tough on corruption yet go soft on those caught in flagrante delicto.
    ………………………………………………………………………
    Malawi has institutions that can help curb the vice, but these institutions have deliberately been paralysed, continuously frustrated and made toothless.
    . . . The ACB is made toothless when the president has the power to hire and fire its director, willy-nilly.
    . . . The justice/injustice system only has comedy of sentences in their books, for anyone found guilty of corruption.
    . . . The legislature, has no political or moral will to review the country’s laws for stiffer punishments on culprits, coz they (MPs) are equally corrupt and the corrupt and thieves do not police themselves.

    Otherwise, you seem to wish us well but our leaders wish us otherwise.
    O………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..O

  9. Gonapamuhanya says:

    One Nigerian president told Cameron that money stolen in Africa ends up in the west. What does the highly esteemed ambassador from UK say? Who have stolen much of our resources starting from the precolonial era? Who is a bigger thief?

  10. therere says:

    what is the connection there Ben?

  11. ben says:

    Government is being chased from Mpico buildings because of non payment of rentals,

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