It is welcome news that British aid to Malawi has produced a forensic audit of Malawi government accounts by Baker Tilly and that German aid is about to produce another similar audit by Price Waterhouse. Maybe there will be some more arrests. Maybe the reports will be made public.
It is certain that Aid-money will flow into these London accountancy-firms and not, for a while, directly into the pockets of Malawian politicians and public servants.
Before the British and German donors finish congratulating themselves on their own integrity, and before they start condemning Malawi as a “leaky bucket”, perhaps they should explain to their own taxpayers how they allowed their own aid money to leak from Government departments in Lilongwe for at least ten years at a rate equivalent to their own contributions to the Malawian Budget(30%).
The criminals will, of course, all be Malawians, and some will go to prison, but their guilt must be shared by the British and German International Development officials in London and Frankfurt who have assured their own taxpayers for many years that their money is going to the poor people of Malawi. They will not, of course, go to prison. In fact they will continue to pretend to be saints.
If we think we have solved the problem of Cashgate by stopping aid-money going directly to Malawi’s government in Budget Support, and by locking up some Malawian civil servants, then we will find that we need to think more deeply.
If international aid money, which continues to flow into Malawi much as before, simply goes to a mass of Malawian NGOs, instead of to Capital Hill in Lilongwe, the corruption only spreads more widely in Malawi. It is not eliminated and it probably becomes much more difficult to control.
The price of honest government in Lilongwe, London and Berlin is “eternal vigilance” on the part of ordinary Malawian, British, USA, German taxpayers as they try to control their public officers and refuse to accept their comfortable lies. We may have to accept that International Aid has failed completely in Malawi and needs to be completely reformed, or totally eliminated.
- Nick Wright formely Africa Confidential’s Malawi correspondent is now based exclusively in London and writes this for Nyasa Times