Oxfam has commended President Lazarus Chakwera for the tough talk on abuse of public funds and has expressed hope that the president’s directives will be implemented by authorities.
Oxfam in Malawi Country Director Lingalireni Mihowa made the remarks today in response to Chakwera’s National Address on use of K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds following the release of an Investigative Report by the Auditor General.
“The President has clearly demonstrated that he is serious about tackling theft, bribery and corruption in the public sector – head on,” said Mihowa. “We hope the authorities tasked to implement the President’s directives will do so expeditiously”.
She also welcomed Chakwera’s acknowledgement of the importance of active citizenship in demanding for accountability and transparency in allocation, utilisation and impact of public resources.
“Many citizens and Civil Society Organization (CSOs) will feel encouraged to raise their voices on matters of public interest in this country, including resource governance. A safe guarded and inclusive civic space is important for our democracy,” said Mihowa.
Speaking on Sunday before Chakwera’s speech, Mihowa described the abuse of Covid-19 funds as appalling and disheartening.
She noted that the K6.2 billion Covidgate happened at a time when Malawi was grappling to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic and when many lives were lost due to shortage of essential equipment and suppliers in the health facilities.
“This investigative report by the Auditor General and the November 2020 report by the Ombudsman on Covid-19 Funds reveal a similar trend; a deep rooted culture of theft of development resources, weak systems for checks and balances, lack of adherence and enforcement of laid down procedures, serious inefficiencies that lead to wastages and a culture of impunity that incentivizes abuse of resources” she said.
The Malawi Police have since arrested 19 people in connection to the theft of Covid-19 funds in the public.
In his speech on Sunday, Chakwera said he will fight the criminal enterprise in government and he warned all civil servants involved in plunder of public funds that they will be arrested and will also be forced to pay back the money.