The President ,ACB Can’t Fight Corruption Alone:Everyone Has A Role To Play To End Corruption-President Mutharika
On 31st December 2016, I stated that the fight against corruption in 2017 will take a different pace. I said what I meant and I meant what I said.
Often-times, people say there is need for a strong political will to fight and defeat corruption. I agree, we cannot fight corruption without political will. That is why I have never tolerated corruption, and all the more reason why I have always condemned corruption.
But let me add one thing. It takes more than political will to fight corruption. It takes collective will of the people to end this evil. It is for this reason we dedicated these special days that we as a nation must come together and do a collective soul-searching.
The Theme of this Conference is “Corruption in Malawi: Reality or Perception”. This theme represents the two fronts on which we fight corruption.
This Conference has offered an opportunity for intense dialogue against corruption. I had to come in person as a pledge of my political will in this fight!
The reality of corruption is that it poses an enormous obstacle to economic and social development. It undermines growth and prosperity. It diverts resources meant for the public good.
When drugs are stolen from the hospitals to be sold in private clinics; when public officers demand payment for them to provide services for which they are employed to do; when our traffic police officers extract unwarranted traffic fines; when notebooks and textbooks disappear from the public schools into private institutions; and when the private sector bribes public officers in order to influence award of contracts – that is the reality of corruption! When editors of the media demand payment in order to write a positive story about a particular politician or a negative story against his or her opponent, that is corruption. When judges block investigations of corrupt government officials through automatic injunctions, that is corruption. When children of friends, relatives or associates are selected to public universities over other fully qualified candidates, that is corruption. All this is unacceptable!
The reality of it all is that corruption does not only exist in Government offices. It is in almost all the sectors. Questions have been raised, legitimately so why 95 percent of Non Governmental Organisations, civil society Organisations, faith based institutions, the judiciary and the media are not accountable to the government, and yet they use funds from the public.
When you fight corruption, corruption fights back. One challenge with fighting corruption is that you fight people who have money. In fact, sometimes it is stolen money – money stolen from Government, money stolen from the people. They have the financial capacity of creating a perception that those who fight corruption are more corrupt than the most corrupt of them.
Besides what is real, we are also fighting against perception of corruption. That is another battle front on which we must fight corruption. One lesson we have learnt from the Cashgate is that the fight against corruption is heightened and made more difficult by the perceptions which we ourselves create.
For over a year now, some newspapers have been awash with stories of the so-called seven corrupt Ministers in my Cabinet. This is a perception created to frustrate our fight. When we perpetuate stories like these without providing evidence, the result is that our perception index falls dramatically and more harm is done to the country. We only end up hurting our own country and damage its image.
Then there is the perception my Government is shielding corrupt Government officials or that it is pursuing selective justice. Let me remind everybody that if shielding officials was part of my Government’s policy, the ACB would not have been able to search the house of a Government Minister or arrest some Party officials.
Government does not dictate to the ACB the manner in which it executes its mandate. It is incumbent upon all of us to help the ACB do its work professionally. And we must therefore do all we can to help the ACB overcome the challenges that it is facing. My Government stands resolved and unshaken to fight corruption, and fight it all the way.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In multi-party Malawi, the efforts to combat corruption go as far back as 1995, when we enacted the Corrupt Practices Act. This was in itself an acknowledgement that there was corruption in the one party system. This Act has been the most comprehensive effort at fighting corruption by creating the lead institutional body for combating corruption, namely, the Anti-Corruption Bureau; it creates offences related to corruption; and spells out the role of other stakeholders in the fight against corruption, among other things. Let me add here in the spirit of transparency that I was to be appointed the first Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau in 1995. I declined because the ACB Director then had no prosecutorial powers. He or she had to get permission from the DPP. I thought that would undermine the independence of the ACB. I am glad the law has changed and the ACB Director has independent prosecutorial powers! I am now ready to accept the position if offered again!
In 2008, we adopted the National Anti-Corruption Strategy. The Strategy was a tool to be used in in implementing standard procedures in both public and private sectors in order to improve service delivery, eradicate corrupt practices in order to achieve sustainable social, economic and political development.
In addition to these, there is also comprehensive legislation that complements the Corrupt Practices Act in the fight against corruption. These include: the Public Audit Act; the Public Finance Management Act; the Public Procurement Act; the Public Officers (Declaration of Assets, Liabilities and Business Interests) Act; the Penal Code; and the recently enacted Financial Crimes Act. Yet despite all these laws aimed at curbing corruption, the vice still strives. The fact that we enforce these laws is an act of political will.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
From the questions that were posed this morning, I have every reason to believe that this Conference has been able to interrogate whether the eight Pillars in the Strategy have been successful in waging the battle against corruption.
The fight against corruption is a continuing one and must be treated as a national priority. This fight requires our strongest resolve. But it is a war worthy fighting because there is no victory without wars.
Since May, 2014, when I became the President of this country on the heels of Cashgate, we have, through the ACB and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, approached the fight against corruption from a different angle. We have made significant strides in bringing to book the Cashgate perpetrators and their accomplices.
If we had strong preventive measures, Cashgate would not have happened. There are people who play down impact of Cashgate because of the amount that was involved. Cashgate was an organized state-sanctioned robbery of public funds. In fact, it was conceived as a mafia-styled project called Project X25 and it had to be implemented by highly placed Government officials under the supervision of the then President. Nothing compares to this organized crime. And when you choose to believe that corruption has gone worse in my Government than the Joyce Banda administration, or any other Government, then you don’t know what we have been through as a country. Vuto lathu ndikuyiwala.
The truth of the matter is that Cashgate was not only responsible for losses of huge amounts in public revenue; it also plunged this country to its lowest level on the index of corruption perception. Yet, some say corruption is worsening. This is a perception being created when corruption fights back.
We do agree – there is corruption happening. But it is never in reality worse than it ever was. And our job as Government is to prioritize prevention over prosecution since prevention is better than cure. We must all work together to cultivate a culture of being honest – a culture of integrity.
As the ACB intensifies their preventive work, we shall provide them with capacity to carry out their prosecutions work where that is needed. Cases of corruption when properly handled and when appropriate sentences are given by the courts will have a deterrent effect.
As we devise new methods of fighting corruption, we need to critically examine all the forms which this vice takes.
Today, I wanted us to engage in an open national dialogue on corruption because I am committed that we must collectively fight this evil. Our resolve has never wavered. This is a fight that every Malawian must engage in.
In the last few decades, we slowly made corruption our culture – our way of life. Whatever we are seeing today is a result of what we planted over the decades. We are seeing effects in a long history of corruption. It is for us as a nation to curtail this culture and never pass this disease to our children. As Government, we will do our part!
The resolutions and recommendations made at this Conference will help Government in:
- Reviewing the National Anti-Corruption Strategy and the law on corrupt practices including the current Act and other laws;
Empowering the law enforcement bodies to perform better;
Intensify our work on taking preventive measures in the fight against corruption;
Undertaking further reforms in the Public Service targeting the practices and areas that encourage corrupt practices;
Implement ATI Act in order to foster more transparency in the way Government does business;
Extend the reach of CPA to cover corruption in private sector;
With the coming of the fibre-network, reduce the necessity for physical meetings and use technology thereby saving on Government resources that go towards allowances;
Enhance the performance Institutional Integrity Committees so that their role in matters of procurement is clearly spelt.
I want to commend the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs for defining a clear course for us as a nation. I also commend all stakeholders participating in this fight. I thank the media when they fight corruption with evidence, but not when they create perceptions for political reasons. This fight is for us all to fight; this fight is for us all to win!
Let us fight the reality of corruption. And let us stop creating a perception of corruption for the sake of politics. This new dialogue must not die. This fight must never die.
I thank you and God bless Malawi!