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Citizens and Corruption: The Role

For years, Malawians have decried the loss of tax-payer’s money to mismanagement or absolute corruption by public officials.

From village level to councils to the central government, funds grow wings and just disappear in thin air, which all boils down to one thing, corruption.

The problem at times is where the citizens say they do not know what amounts to corruption, which some feel that relevant authorities should have made a deliberate effort to sensitize them on what defines corruption.

The launch of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy in 2008 was thought that it would bring improvements to the anti-corruption framework of Malawi. Some believe that the country has strong anti-corruption laws, and that institutions and initiatives by the private sector complement government efforts.

However, many people claim that they know little or nothing at all about corruption, as Miriam Chipeta from Chasato Village in Mzimba district puts it, “I have heard about corruption on radio, but at random times. Nobody has explained this in detail in a way that some of us in rural areas, or the illiterate should not only know, but understand”.

Enock Kazembe from Kanyama Village in Dedza says sometimes people in villages think that corruption is a subject of the elite, that those in villages cannot do anything about it because nobody cares.

“Who listens to us in the village? For me, I heard a lot especially during campaigns, on the run-up to the past general elections. It appeared that the names that are involved belong to the upper class and we cannot say anything. Imagine that since then, we only hear about corruption on the radio, in the news about some cases in court,” he said.

Kazembe said that he has heard that citizens have a role in fighting corruption, but that it seems that citizens are not aware of this role because of ignorance. He further said that somebody should sensitize ordinary Malawians who, like him, believe that they are given a raw deal through the mismanagement of the tax-payer’s money.

The graft-busting body, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) spokesperson Egrita Ndala said that corruption retards development and there is a great need for citizens to realize that. While acknowledging that some may not fully understand the gravity of this problem, for many it’s just about a change of mindset, because some just feel that it is not their business.

“Where some people may think that when resources are mismanaged or stolen does not concern them, or it’s not their problem, all those things, for them to now come to realize that this corruption is affecting each one of them as an individual, we need to reach a point where each one of us has to realize that corruption is affecting us directly. Where service delivery is affected and the citizens feel lacking in different sectors, then that should be a deciding moment”, said Ndala.

The Center for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT), through its executive director Willie Kambwandira says citizens play a very critical role in as far as fighting corruption is concerned. He cited the National Anti-Corruption Strategy II which recognizes citizens; civil society and media for example, as having a responsibility to expose corruption.

“But we must also realize that for this to effectively happen, for citizens to actively participate, they must be motivated by seeing that cases that have been reported are being addressed, prosecuted, concluded, and justice is served on the citizens. This is one of the elements that is lacking in our case and as a result, citizens are not motivated to even report cases, so it is very important for enforcement agencies, the judiciary, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, other actors, to genuinely, seriously, take corruption reports from citizens seriously”, he said.

He added, “Citizens have this responsibility to demand accountability on corruption cases. We cannot have corruption cases for over ten years. The only way is to become radical if the battle is to be won”.

This was echoed by a governance expert Victor Chipofya who said that the damage that has been done by corruption can be reversed by the citizens through reporting corruption, and especially by not getting involved in corruption as individuals.

“Whatever positions we have in society; we can use that to influence change. That is without considering specific positions. Even at village level, because corruption has not spared the villages, churches, schools! It is everywhere, and we, us, should take it upon ourselves if we have to save the resources, the taxpayers money, and improve service delivery”, he said.

The NACS II has concrete complementary goals that Malawians across the board care about; improving the quality and accessibility of public services, promoting the rule of law by strengthening the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute corrupt individuals and recover their illicit assets, as well as promoting a culture of integrity and accountability, which Chipeta and Kazembe said they wished a day would come to see this come to pass.

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Last modified on Thursday, 25/04/2024

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