Prof. Thandika Mkandawire says Malawi civil service needs reorganisation

One of Malawi’s internationally respected scholars, Professor Thandika Mkandawire, has added his weight behind President Joyce Banda’soverhaul of her cabinet  describing it as a good move.

However, the United Kingdom based Malawian professor while commending the move observed President Banda’s real problem would be re-organising the civil service.

Prof Mkandawire in a post on his Facebook account noted that the Malawi civil service is a broken system because the three principles on which it thrives on have suffered major blows during the last 20 years.

“The Malawi Civil Service is a broken system. Civil services thrive on three principles: meritocracy, hierarchy and a sense of espirit de corp (team spirit).

Prog Thandika Mkadawire; New

Prog Thandika Mkadawire: Shake-up civil servicew

“Each of these has suffered major blows during the last 20 years. First you had the massive political interference which made nonsense of sense of merit and hierarchy,” wrote Prof Mkandawire, a former Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.

“And then you had the World Bank reforms (the so called New Public Management) which sought to bring market mechanisms into the public system through performance based contracts when there was no way of measuring performance and no mechanism for regulating this new mechanism.”

Mkandawire noted that due to the above, the consequence was that people could be parachuted into key positions on these contracts.

“And the World Bank abandoned the failed scheme midstream leaving the country with a broken system with neither a Weberian notion of bureaucracy or a functioning ‘New Public Management’ system,” he observed.

Added onto that, Mkandawire said, was the parcelisation of the civil service among different external actors (officials and NGOs) each supplementing their favourite civil servants or ministries with top-up salaries, lucrative workshops, special trainings, among others.

Mkandawire, who has served on several positions in global organisations, said as such the material incentives they selectively provide undermined the moral incentives behind team work.

President Banda fired all her ministers last Thursday barely 24 hours after returning from USA where she had gone for official duties.

O Tuesday  President Banda  appointed a new Cabinet that includes replacements for the finance and justice ministers, listening to calls from concerned Malawians to relieve the former Finance Minister Ken Lipenga of his duties for failing to lead the crucial ministry which has been riddled with high-level corruption in one of Africa’s poorest countries.

Since his appointment Lipenga has been involved in two serious financial scandals but he has been spared by the president despite public outcry to have him fired.

The government overhaul follows the Sept. 13 shooting of Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo, who is believed to have been targeted because of his efforts to stop graft. He was taken to South Africa for treatment.

In the new cabinet, Maxwell Mkwezalamba, a former commissioner at the African Union Commission in Ethiopia, became finance minister, and Fahad Assani, former director of public prosecutions, became justice minister.

Assani has said corruption is endemic in Malawi, estimating that 30 percent of the government budget is lost through fraud and corruption annually.

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