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The Law and Corruption

The Law and Corruption

On 9th December 2019, the Malawi Government launched the National Anti-Corruption Strategy-NACS II which has the most concrete and complementary goals that Malawians across the board care about.

The goals include improving the quality and accessibility of public services, promoting rule of law by strengthening the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals and recover their illicit assets, and promoting a culture of integrity and accountability.

Despite the country’s advanced Constitution, which provides a comprehensive fundamental framework for creating good governance and a high standard of ethics and integrity in the public service, and its many laws that regulate public finance management and procurement, that criminalize corruption and establish multiple institutions to fight corruption, the scourge still thrives.

The Anti-Corruption Bureau-ACB which is responsible for the implementation of its strategic plan and indeed the NACS II, has for a long time lamented limited funding among many resources required for it to effectively discharge its duties.

The Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency-CSAT Executive Director Willy Kambwandira has observed that there is selective application of the Anti-Corruption laws in the country.

"We have seen how the law has favored those in power. Sadly, there is also a lack of coordination among the law enforcement agencies themselves.

"Through the high corruption cases we have seen how some law enforcement agencies appear to be fighting against each other, others frustrating the work of the Anti-Corruption Bureau," said Kambwandira.

He has also noted what he calls the lack of political will in the implementation of the Anti-Corruption laws, leaving the fight against the vice wanting.

Youth And Society Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka says that public finance mismanagement affects young people who are in majority in the country, but unfortunately there is a serious lack of knowledge on finance management dynamics and corruption laws, which calls for a need to educate them. He said that whatever decisions are made regarding managing finances, impact hugely on the youths.

"Obviously the knowledge on public finance management and corruption laws is very low, not only among the youths, but the general public as a whole. What we see now is the authorities taking advantage of that ignorance by the general population to abuse resources because they know that people are ignorant."

Kajoloweka has added that the country could have done better, considering that corruption cannot be defeated in a day, especially since the country is lagging behind in fighting corruption.

"We need to all agree on working towards ending corruption under the National Anti-Corruption Strategy to cultivate the culture of integrity across the board, improving quality of public services and ensure that we fix procurement, using relevant laws. This is where the whole fight is, and when you look around, all the finance mismanagement and corruption is happening in this area."

He further said there is a great need to invest in and empower young people, especially making gem aware of the available laws used to end corruption in Malawi, and that only if the young people are not left out and know the laws, will they participate and get involved in the fight.

A public entity responsible for procurement processes, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets-PPDA has bemoaned continued disregard of the country's laws in public procurement.

The PPDA Act which was enacted in 2017 gives the authority the mandate to oversee public procurement and assets disposal, as it further empowers the authority to provide subsidiary legislation including guidelines and circulars to ensure that public procurement and disposal of assets is done in accordance with the law.

It uses Section 52 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (No.27 of 2017) that provides for eligibility criteria of suppliers to participate in public procurement and disposal of assets proceedings, which are sometimes flouted, through systems by-passing and collusions by public officers.

But the authority's Public Relations Officer Kate Kujaliwa has said the law promotes competition by advocating for open tendering and international bidding, where everyone has an opportunity to participate in the procurement process.

She says sometimes government ministries, departments and agencies-MDAs get a no-objection or a waiver from PPDA outside open tendering, a measure she says limits corruption because they justify the reason why they are choosing single sourcing over open tendering, using the law.

Following reports of misuse of public funds, some stakeholders including the donor partners, such as the German government and the World Bank, have invested in the country's public finance management to ensure that their support does not go down the drain.

According to Kujaliwa, the World Bank is assisting the Malawi government through the PPDA to put up an Online Government Procurement-OGP system to facilitate online transactions to address human errors which led to corrupt practices in the public service.

She said this is besides the tip-offs anonymous and the whistle blowing policy which encourages people to report any malpractices on corruption and fraud by dialing 847.

Meanwhile, the CSAT Executive Director Willy Kambwandira has said that effective implementation of Anti-Corruption laws require genuine political will, which is not being demonstrated by the government and coordination among law enforcement agencies.

Kambwandira has since commended the World Bank-funded online procurement system being implemented by the PPDA, saying "the OGP will help Malawians to know companies involved in tendering of goods and services and their owners by making the information accessible to everyone.”

"Much as we applaud the government for implementing the open procurement process it is also very important for agencies to be seen to apply relevant laws."

Section 31, subsection 1 of corrupt practices act Number 17 of 2004 says that “Any person who directly or indirectly by himself, or by or in conjunction with any other person, corruptly solicits, accepts or obtains, or agrees to accept or attempts to receive or obtain from any person, for himself or for any other person, any advantage as an inducement or reward for or otherwise on account of his refraining or having refrained from bidding at any sale by auction conducted by or on behalf of any public body or private body shall be guilty of an offence.”

Malawians need to understand what the law says to better take part in fighting corruption.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 07/02/2024

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