Mixed reactions trail sack of Malawi ministers over corruption row: Zodiak debate

The dissolution of cabinet on Thursday by President Joyce Banda has elicited mixed reactions from both social and political commentators with some arguing that the move is a watershed in rooting out corruption but others bluntly saying the Head of State has missed the point.

President Banda dissolved the cabinet in reaction to calls from donor partners, civil society organizations and the media to act on those involved in the plundering of public finances at the Capital Hill in what is known as “cash-gate scandal” in which some cabinet ministers have been implicated.

But speaking during a public debate on the scandal organized by the privately owned radio, Zodiak Broadcasting Station Thursday night at Cross Roads Hotel in the capital Lilongwe, a social commentator, Mabvuto Bamusi said the dissolution of cabinet will have a less meaning in arresting the problem of finance plundering at the Capital Hill.

He said according to Public Finance Management Act the responsibility of managing resources is charged with controlling officers.

Bamusi: We should demand accountability

“And I wish to state here that much as the cabinet has been dissolved the cabinet ministers are not controlling officers in the sense of the Public Finance Management Act,” he said.

“There is something more that needs to happen beyond the dissolution of the cabinet. For example, an example of controlling officers is principal secretaries who are still intact there,” Bamusi noted.

“If I were to make a quick suggestion I would say that in the spirit of Public Finance Management Act the relevant Principal Secretaries who were attached to the ministries who are part of where looting is emanating from should either be arrested or should be charged,” he said.

Bamusi said such people would include Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Finance “in other words the secretary to the treasury”, top managers at Offiice of President and Cabinet  like  the chief secretary.

“We are supposed to be demanding accountability from these officers out of provisions in the Public Finance Management Act,” Bamusi said.

He said it is sad that the country’s public finance management system has lost integrity and therefore asked Malawians if they will be willing to entrust the government with taxes, given the loss of integrity.

Bamusi also wondered how many donors will be willing to finance the country’s budget with such developments “given that close to 40 percent of the budget is bankrolled by donors”.

A concerned citizen Zeria Chakale said during the debate that it would be wise if the president also ordered the replacement all the civil servants who have been using Integrated Financial Management System which is used as a pipe for siphoning the money, with new staff if the looting is to stop.

But a political commentator from University of Malawi, Dr  Henry Chingaipe had earlier described the move taken by President Banda as a welcome development considering that Malawians have been crying for the cabinet to be dissolved and to have other ministers axed following the cash-gate scandal which implicates some cabinet ministers

“My view is that the dissolution of the cabinet is a sign that she is governing more seriously and responding to the wishes of the people in terms of cleaning the house in order,” he told a local radio.

Chingaipe also said this will help increase levels of trust which Malawian has in her in responding to matters of national interest.

Constitutional lawyer Dr Edge Kanyongolo says it will be up to the President to decide when to appoint new cabinet ministers as the laws of Malawi do not put a time frame for which the President should appoint the cabinet after dissolution.

“The absence of the cabinet does not necessary creates a bigger gap in government administration except on policy issues. Most of the works in government are done by civil servants who will still be doing their normal duties in the absence of cabinet, “says Kanyongolo.

Western donors have been urging President  Banda to tackle corruption and she has vowed to crackdown on culprits.

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