“If we are serious about eradicating corruption in the country, then the first step is to give ACB the resources they need.”
A staggering deep-cut into funding to Malawi’s graft-busting body, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) will muzzle the organisation’s financial independence and consequently decelerate the fight against corruption in the country, experts have warned.
President Lazarus Chakwera vehemently promised Malawians that as part of his drive to end corruption in the country, the Tonse Alliance administration would make sure that the nation’s corruption-fighting establishment, ACB is adequately funded at all times to ensure that it has sufficient resources to curb and fight bribery.
With the appointment of immediate former ombudsman, the legal bulldozer, Martha Chizuma, who is the first woman to be appointed as Director General (DG) since ACB was established on March 1st, 1997, got many Malawians enthused and appeared to have reignited their trust and belief into the corruption-shattering state agency.
However, this year’s funding to ACB has been cut by a whopping 14 percent in the 2021/2022 National Budget, contrary to what President Chakwera assured the people of Malawi and this according to experts and analysts apprehend will water down the Tonse Alliance administration’s anti-graft strenuous fight.
The ACB newly minted Director General, Martha Chizuma accompanied by her deputy Elia Bodole and senior staff presented the institution’s budget shortfall before the budget cluster committee of the Legal Affairs and Government Assurance of Parliament.
In the new budget set to roll out on July 1, the Treasury has allocated K3.9 billion to the ACB against its proposed K4.6 billion, creating a shortfall of K647 million representing 14 percent of the cut.
In an interview with Nyasa Times after the meeting, the ACB chief, Martha Chizuma, said: “With such insufficient funding, it will be tough for the Bureau to effectively execute its constitutionally mandated duties and functions fully.
“The major part in fighting corruption is to sensitise the people about bribery and when everyone is informed, they will refrain from getting involved in corruption and it is for that reason that we would like to reach out to every corner of the country, she said.
“However, for that to happen, we will enough resources to be everywhere in the country and again to conduct investigations, we will need funds for logistics to carry out such tasks. We will do our best with what we have and ensure that we give our best and we will not use this as an excuse not to do well,” added the ACB boss.
Nyasa Times understands that the Treasury has used the same figures of the previous financial year, divided by 12 [months] and multiplied by nine [months] for the new financial year.
International development partners and donor agencies have supported the bureau with the establishment of a forensic laboratory, however, the ACB is running short funds to obtaining licences.
United Democratic Front (UDF) leader in Parliament, Ned Poya, legislator for Zomba-Ntonya constituency, who is also deputy chairperson for Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament said: Underfunding an important crime-fighting state agency like ACB is in a way stifling its operation.
“If we are serious about eradicating corruption in the country then the first step is to give ACB the resources they need to do their job. Non-political interference is not important when the bureau has not economic independence. As UDF, we are disappointed with this development.”
Poya said it is high time Malawi change the way the ACB gets its funding, with government having a final say as to how much the ACB get or do not get saying the graft-bursting body must not be at the mercy of politicians when it comes to allocation of funds.
“He who pays the piper plays the tune and, in this case, the government plays the tune as it solely responsible for ACB’s financial independence, which should not be case because as it stands, ACB cannot bite the hand that feeds it,” said Poya.
A Blantyre-based highly respected legal practitioner, who opted for anonymity, said that without sufficient resources ACB is nothing but a toothless bulldog.
“First and foremost, we must make ACB free. We must give ACB financial independence and free it from political interference. It is time we give the ACB some teeth so that it can starting biting those on the wrong side of the graft law,” said the legal expert.
Mulanje West member of Parliament (MP) for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who is co-chairperson of the cluster committee, said the deficit needs to be addressed by the Treasury to ensure the bureau operates optimally without any financial hiccups.
Nthenda explained that it is really hard to change the figures at the cluster committee level, but that in collaboration with the ACB, they will engage Treasury on the matter.
The Mulanje West lawmaker, Nthenda said the issue will be tabled in Parliament for deliberations and considerations from the Finance minister Felix Mlusu.
President Lazarus Chakwera has before and after getting into power has been publicly proclaiming that governance institutions such as the ACB will be adequately funded to fight corruption and promote rule of law.
With ineffectual funding, the brilliance of Martha Chizuma at the ACB will be rendered useless if the institution is denied the desired funding.
For a long time now, Malawians have seen governments preaching against corruption, but paralysing graft fighting institutions with underfunding. Fighting corruption is not cheap. For people in the office to perform, they need resources.”
The ACB presentation made before the cluster committee showed that in the 2020/21 National Budget, they were allocated K5.2 billion from K3.2 billion in the 2019/20 National Budget.
From the K5.2 billion, K1.7 billion was for personal emoluments and K3.5 billion for other recurrent transactions.
Gift Trapence, chairperson of the Human Rights Defenders Coalition. “They are no longer interested in his speeches.
“They are now looking for action. What is worrying is that we are talking about 6 billion Kwacha ($7.7 million) that was released in 2020, yet there is another 17.5 billion Kwacha ($21.9 million) that was released this year, and we are wondering if these funds were put into good use.”
Malawi has been losing billions of dollars in public funds to private individuals who, in the end, invest it into their private enterprises and these funds could have otherwise funded the country’s development agenda—which, in line with UN sustainable development goals commits to giving every Malawian basic necessities like food, good shelter, and access to quality education and health care.
A May 2017 Economic Development Document for Malawi by the World Bank shows a gross national income of $320 per capita in 2016—one of the lowest in the world—and a per capita income growth of little more than 1.5 percent between 1995 and 2014, below the average of 2.8 percent for non-resource-rich African economies.
An analysis of government accounts’ audit reports reveals that from 1995 to 2020, government funds have been lost after payment for government contracts were not carried out. In 2013, between April and September, 16 Malawian companies received illicit payments from the government totalling approximately $32 million for goods and services that were not delivered.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :