University of Malawi political scientist Dr. Michael Jana has said that the recent infamous ‘NACGATE’ saga on the missallocation of charitable funding by the National Aids Commission (NAC), does not reflect well on President Peter Mutharika.
On Tuesday civil society organisation petitioned government that local groups that accepted portions of an NAC grant estimated at $100,000 — Beautify Malawi (Beam), which belongs to first lady Gertrude Mutharika; Mulhako wa alhomwe, a cultural group— are not linked to AIDS activities.
All the groups have refused to refund the money, saying they did not force the NAC to give it to them. But rights groups are calling funds a handout to organizations closely aligned with the country’s ruling party leadership.
In an interview published in The Nation daily newspaper, Jana said public perception was crucial in recognizing authority or despising it, and that in his views, the NACGATE saga does not reflect well on the President.
“Unfortunately, I do not think this whole saga reflects well on the President. You know, public perception is crucial in recognizing authority or despising it. That is why the perception that the President is abusing his power will linger on if NAC and concerned public figures do not take concrete steps to convince the civil society that the President and/or his cronies did not use their political influence to siphon money from NAC, but followed procedures in line with NAC mandate,” said Jana who is based at Chancellor College in Zomba.
Jana was responding to The Nation’s Ephraim Nyondo’s question: “President Peter Mutharika is connected to BEAM through marriage and to Mulhakho through tribal lineage: Is this conflict reflecting anything on him?”
Reacting to the unfolding drama that had characterized the country surrounding NACGATE with accusations and counter-accusations between the parties involved, the University of Malawi don says he did not necessarily see conflict in a negative way in the whole saga.
“Well, I am not necessarily reading conflict in the negative sense. I think what is happening is a normal scenario in a democracy where the civil society is holding the public institutions and public figures to account. NAC, as a public institution, has the obligation to be transparent and accountable to the public; and the civil society organization have the obligation and the right to hold public institutions and public figures to account. I think if all parties could look at the situation through such lenses, there would be less unnecessary name-calling and more objective analysis and resolutions.”
On the abuse of NAC resources by those in power, Jana said
“In poor societies like Malawi, more often than not, the government becomes the only meaningful avenue to acquiring resources and affluence. In Malawi at the moment the government is apparently broke; it seems it cannot meet most of its obligations. However, NAC seems to have a lot of resources owing mostly to external funders; and this leaves NAC as one of those few public institutions that has resources that can be accessed by those in power. In this context, allegations and stories of financial abuse and financial “reallocations” at NAC begin to make sense. Because NAC is susceptible to abuse and “reallocations”, it needs extra public scrutiny, and I think the recent CSOs scrutiny is necessary.”
He continued:“In a democracy, public institutions must be subjected to public scrutiny. NAC as an example of a public institution, must be subjected to public scrutiny. In this context, I think the concerns raised by the concerned CSOs and their actions are legitimate.
“The public institutions and leaders concerned are duty-bound to respond, and if their actions are responses seem not to be convincing, there is need for contact and dialogue and if need be, bringing in independent auditors and evaluators to give independent and expert opinion, so we can forge a credible way forward on how to manage and use such public funds” said Jana.
A spokesman for the organizers of Tuesday’s protests, Timothy Mtambo of the Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation, told reporters that along with refunding the money, the demonstrators want to jumpstart a national a dialogue about fair governance.
They also want government to fire board members of National AIDS Commission within three weeks for “failing to discharge their duties by careless disbursement of money meant for HIV/AIDS activities.”
Mtambo also rights groups will take unspecified action should government fail to address the concerns within 100 days.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :