‘Break the silence, stop corruption’: JB’s speech at National Anti-Corruption Day

I am very pleased to be here today as Malawi commemorates the National Anti-Corruption Day under the theme “Break the Silence; Stop Corruption.” This is a very important day for every Malawian.  I notice that this is the 10th commemoration of the National Anti-Corruption Day since it was first instituted in February, 2004.

This day gives all of us an opportunity to reflect on our efforts to fight corruption. This day allows us to evaluate the impact of corruption on our society. This day affords us an opportunity to assert our will and commitment to fight corruption.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Corruption has become one of the greatest challenges that every Government is confronted with in today’s society all over the world. Many African countries are struggling to fight corruption. Just very recently, I read a commentary how corruption as besieged European countries where corruption costs European countries 120 billion euros each year. And here at home, as early as 2001, the then Director of Public Prosecution, now my Minister of Justice made a public comment that one third of national budget is lost to theft and corruption. And over time, we have seen how each Government has been confronted with theft and corruption. Each time such concerns have been raised, our development partners have reacted in one way or another. We have seen how corruption has undermined the country’s efforts to drive reforms and sustainably develop the economy.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Corruption is prevalent in all sectors of our society. It is prevalent in Government. It is prevalent in private sector. It is prevalent in civil society organisations. It is prevalent among development partners. Yes, it is prevalent even in our communities. Corruption has become a global phenomenon. Therefore in addressing corruption, we need holistic approach and a globalised mindset.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

I have said it before that when I took office, our country was facing numerous social economic challenges. Malawians will recall that there were serious governance issues which led to us losing friends and partners.  Worse still, social services had compromised following complete economic collapse under the previous Government.  There was no fuel in this country.  People spent days and nights at petrol stations waiting for fuel which in most cases never came.  There was no forex available; no drugs in hospitals and perpetual blackouts of electricity.

All these challenges were on top of serious human rights concerns against the previous administration.  These and other challenges were inherited by this Government which immediately embarked on reversing the trend.  In order to address the challenges, my government developed an Economic Recovery Plan as a roadmap to recover our economy. The implementation of this Economic Recovery Plan has faced a number of challenges, one of the most serious being corruption and fraud. While government was keen to improve the economic situation of the country, a few greedy individuals were frustrating government efforts by siphoning public resources through corruption and fraud. You are all aware that our law enforcement agencies and other Government institutions are currently occupied with investigating the looting of Government resources at Capital Hill. As a nation, we are all deeply hurt by the revelations that some selfish individuals illicitly siphoned large sums of money from Government at Capital Hill.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Corruption involves the misuse of any office, not only public office. It involves the illicit misuse of power and influence, for financial and personal benefit. Our law targets both public and private persons.  Those in public service engaged in corruption use their official positions to enrich themselves, and others known to them, at the expense of poor Malawians. We must always remember that the positions we are holding whether in public or private offices are for serving Malawians, and not for self enrichment at the expense of poor Malawians.  What is worse is that corruption undermines good governance.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Corruption is an impediment to economic growth and development. Corruption retards the social economic development of a country. Governments struggle to provide basic necessities to its citizens because resources are lost through corruption. And in our case, because of few greedy individuals, government cannot provide adequate resources to government ministries and departments, which translate into provision of inadequate services to the public.  Because of a few corrupt individuals Government faces serious challenges in the provision of social services.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Since the launch of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2009, some government departments have developed Anti-Corruption Policies and have set up Institutional Integrity Committees with the aim of fighting corruption within their own institutions.  Some departments and institutions have not yet established Institutional Integrity Committees.  I urge them to do so because it is a requirement.   An instruction has been issued by my Government that 1 per cent of the annual budget of every Ministry, Department or Agency of Government be devoted to the work of Institutional Integrity Committees.  In order to ensure that we develop a strong National Integrity System, I have appointed a new National Integrity Committee to oversee all efforts in that regard.  The new National Integrity Committee is composed of individuals of high standing in our society, persons with impeccable credentials of integrity.  I am confident that they will greatly assist Malawi in entrenching a National Integrity System and fight corruption.

I am pleased to formally commission the new National Integrity Committee.  I call upon it to spare no effort in overseeing the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and in establishing a robust National Integrity System. It is not enough to develop Anti-Corruption Policies and form Institutional Integrity Committees, we should make sure that we put these instruments to use so as to achieve their objectives of fighting corruption in various institutions. This is the time we must all realise that as Malawians we have a role to play in fighting corruption at individual as well as at national levels. Let us resist, reject and report corruption.  We must break the silence, we must stop corruption.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Despite the challenges faced in the course of implementing the Economic Recovery Plan, my Government will not relent in this endeavour of bringing the economy on course. My Government will therefore continue to fight corruption at all levels by providing the necessary support to the Anti-Corruption Bureau to enable it to perform its functions effectively.  I have said it before that I will fight corruption to the bitter end, even if this comes before my political career.

Turning to the looting of Government resources at Capital Hill which my Government has recently uncovered, I would like to state clearly here that I will spare no effort in fighting corruption in the public service.  The discovery of the looting is not accidental.  I have explained it before that it was because I noticed that our currency was not accordingly responding to the recovery that was taking place in the economy that I raised serious questions with the former Minister of Finance.  I charged him and his team to work to discover any loopholes through which Government resources were being lost and seal those loopholes.  True to my suspicion, and thank to the work of my officials, the looting of Government resources at Capital Hill was discovered.

As we have come to know, the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) was abused, starting from 2005 when it was first installed.  Looting was first discovered in 2010 and investigations in the 2010 cases were for no apparent reasons halted.  There had been recommendations to the previous Government to seal loopholes in IFMIS, but that Government choose not to do anything about it, probably to leave room for the siphoning of more Government resources.  Small wonder therefore that by the time I took office the problems had grown very big, as certain individuals had mastered the art of siphoning Government resources.  I could not allow this to continue.  This is why I and my Government have spared no effort in investigating this looting and bring all those involved to justice.  I have said it time again, I have placed my political career at stake by going flat out to root out this corruption because I believe this is the right thing a leader who loves her people and her country should do.  I have said that I will shield no one and that I have allowed all the law enforcement agencies to work independently, professionally and diligently to ensure that we, as a country, get to the bottom of the problem and deal with it once and for all.  I have also allowed the participation of foreign experts in virtually every key institution in order that we have a credible and thorough investigation of the matter.  No one can doubt the credibility of our investigations in these matters. Do not be deceived, not every country can allow foreign experts to get involved in investigating internal and serious matters as we have done.  It is like we have allowed foreign experts to go anywhere in our house, including our own bedroom, in order for them to assist resolve this matter.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

May I add that we have put in place a Government Action Plan on measures to improve public financial management.  The implementation of that plan is on course.  The plan I am talking about has had wide support, including that of our Development Partners.  As a country, we are confident we are doing the right thing in addressing the problem because we recognise that this is our fight and we must fight it, whether with external support or not. That is why we are doing all it takes to get to the bottom of the problem.  I am aware that there are forces trying to derail the process of investigation and prosecution in order to protect culprits.  I am also aware that there are forces who want to use the investigations and the prosecutions in these matters for their own political or other agendas.  Let me warn that my Government will not allow anyone to derail the process for their own political or other agendas.  Our law enforcement agencies must be allowed to operate independently and professionally.  When we talk about independence of the agencies, we mean independence from interference whether from the Government, NGOs, donors or any individual or other authority.  Interference can either be direct or subtle.  All that must not happen.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

My Government is aware of the enormous challenges the law enforcement agencies are facing in the current investigations.  This is why my Government has periodically provided special extra funding to the institutions in order to accelerate the investigations and prosecutions of the matter.  I am aware that there is pressure on the law enforcement agencies to speed up their work and I am aware that they are doing their best.  In fact the experts who are working with our agencies have on a number of times conceded that, in their experience, the demands placed on our agencies are sometimes unrealistic.  For example, some of the top foreign investigations have conceded that it is quite a challenge to expect the investigations to be done within six months when in their experience it would ordinarily not be done in less than eighteen months. My government, however, has every confidence that our agencies will do a good job even in the face of the challenges.

My Government has already addressed some of the challenges faced by the Anti-Corruption Bureau.  My government approved the expansion of the Bureau’s staff establishment as well as the opening of an additional office in Zomba. The Anti-Corruption Bureau needs to expand to enable Malawians easily access its services. Further to that, my government would like the Anti-Corruption Bureau Officers to be trained in advanced investigative skills so as to enable them handle complicated cases. My Government will continue to give support to the Anti-Corruption Bureau so that its officers acquire skills that can equip them deal with modern economic and financial crimes. It is also very important that the Anti-Corruption Bureau retains its trained and experienced staff and that can only be done if the Anti-Corruption Bureau is competitive. My Government will review conditions of service for the Anti-Corruption Bureau in order to make the institution competitive and, in turn, even more efficient and effective.  Delay in the prosecution of cases is another challenge.  I believe that the establishment of a special Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Court would assist in fast tracking the trial of corruption cases.  To this end the Corrupt Practices Act and other relevant laws are under review.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

In order to promote good governance, my Government has established a Ministry of Good Governance. This ministry is working hand in hand with the National Integrity Committee, the committee which oversees the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy through the activities done by the various pillars. I want the Ministry of Good Governance and the National integrity Committee to continue exploring other ways of fighting corruption. I also want this Ministry to see to it that anti-corruption policies that have been developed by various institutions are being put to use. My Government is doing all this as a way of fighting corruption and promoting good governance.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

In closing, I recognise that Malawi as country, we are celebrating 50 years of independence this year. I see it as divine that this country be cleansed of corruption and theft as we prepare to enter the next jubilee. It is therefore very important for me that as my Government is implementing a transformational agenda, we have to deal with theft and corruption squarely in our efforts to realise the country’s destiny.

At this point, let me thank our cooperating partners for the support that you are rendering to the Bureau to augment Government efforts. Specifically let me pay tribute to the British Government, the Government of the Kingdom of Norway and the Republic of Ireland for the financial support to the Bureau. The American Government has also provided technical expertise in prosecution and communication strategy for which my Government is appreciated.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Let me remind all Malawians that the responsibility of fighting corruption is not for Government alone, or the Anti-Corruption Bureau alone, but for all of us. Let us not waste our time finger pointing while we shield perpetrators of corruption. We perpetuate corruption when we choose to remain silent when we have information that could have helped avert loss of resources through corruption or that could have assisted to bring perpetrators to book. We therefore must collectively fight to destroy this cancer that eats deep into the moral fabric of our society. Break the Silence: Stop Corruption.

Lastly, I want to pledge my government’s support in the fight against corruption by providing the necessary support to the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

With these remarks I declare the National Anti-Corruption Day Conference for 2014 officially opened.

Thank you all for your attention.

May God bless our nation and bless us all.

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