Corruption Development Malawi Opinion

The Jappie Mhango allowances fiasco is only the tip of the Iceberg of corruption in Malawi

If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that Malawi has a big corruption problem. It is a fact and there’s no getting away from it. At least not in the present scenario where Peter Mutharika’s DPP is in government.

But for the benefit of those who are not aware of the scale of corruption in Malawi, or what this post is all about here goes; a few days ago, Malawi’s Health Minister Jappie Mhango, and Malawi’s Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani were caught by a video recording discussing how they would hide the hefty allowances they were drawing from Covid19 Emergency fund. This is despite Mark Botomani appearing earlier on TV denying allegations that ministers were benefiting from any Covid19 related funds.

As would be expected people in Malawi have been outraged by this development with one Human Rights organisation, HRDC calling for the resignation of the ministers within 7 days.

As thousands of health workers continue to be poorly paid, it is reprehensible that these ministers would connive to cheat Malawians including the Health services even in an emergency situation. Just last week, there was a leaked circular from the Treasury’s recently dissolved Special Cabinet Committee on Covid-19 indicating allowances (termed “Risk Token”) per day for each Minister as MK450,000 (~US$611) and for each MP as MK350,000 (~ US$475) as remuneration for their tours in preparation for the pandemic. Those figures do not include accommodation and fuel allowances, which when factored in push the daily allowances to around MWK700,000! That’s more than twice the monthly salary of a Registered nurse in Malawi! and nearly 3 times that of lower bands of nurses (e.g. diploma holders from the Malawi College of Health Sciences).

No surprises then why people are outraged. Such exorbitant allowances cannot be normal or justified when the government has not provided adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to health care workers including nurses and doctors, in preparation for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Normally, the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the Treasury approve allowances structures and once that is done OPC dispatches circulars to government departments for noting and filing. Now in this emergency situation where there was a short notice, who approved the allowances?

Jappie must have discussed with Treasury Principal Secretaries that the government system is completely off bounds, because the way the government system works is that when a transaction is decided, Ministry of Finance and Treasury have to approve the expenditure. What’s happened here is that Jappie and his Controlling Officer (who is the PS) decided to breach that process.

This smacks of lack of discipline at the highest level in government. However, according to allegations from a source who declined to be named, Jappie Mhango’s corrupt ways are not new.

The allegation says that a few years ago, when Jappie’s sister (one Mrs Kaunda) was Secretary of the then manager at the Ministry of Education Division in Lilongwe (Central West), Jappie, his sister and one Thoko Chimuzu who was the Principal Planning Officer then (and is now PS at the Ministry of Information) used to supply maize and beans to schools in a racket that targeted schools. When funding from Education Headquarters to Education Division had been issued, Jappie and his clique would first deduct money that was due to them from their supply activities, and only then would the rest be used to towards the mandated payments for which the funds were issued. There was no restrain, no acknowledgement that there may be a conflict of interest.

Today even though Jappie has a constituency seat and a ministerial position, my source says that the trend never stopped, and the source is baffled how educated people behave in this shameful way.

The source said Jappie is extremely opportunistic and does not think of the effect of his actions or the conflicts of interest that arise. So the thieving team of Thoko Chimuzu and Jappie Mhango is still in operation today, and Mark Botomani is just the latest addition. Apparently, the racket included one Justin Adak K Saidi (a PS at Education) who rose from being a primary school teacher, and who was a protégé of Patrick Mbewe. Apparently, their dodgy operations have included using teachers to rig elections for UDF, and recently in 2019, for DPP. In fact the very idea of Tippex originated from this clique. They monopolize every opportunity to the extent two of Saidi’s children were awarded 2 scholarships to China.

If these allegations are true, then they simply confirm everything many of us have been writing about all these years. Peter Mutharika’s DPP government, as illegitimate as it is, if full of selfish people whose number 1 aim is to plunder the state for personal gain. If Peter Mutharika was truly interested in fighting corruption, he would have fired all these loose cannons and corrupt officials out of his government long ago.

These people will use whatever means to deprive Malawians of resources. They are not public servants and they do not have the best interests of Malawians at heart. Jappie Mhango has shown you his true colours, he is only interested in self-enriching himself. Please believe him.

The Anti-corruption Bureau needs to take note and begin investigating such rackets, including looking at these kinds of payments and allowances across the chain of command at the Treasury, the OPC and the Accountant General’s office, and whether they fully comply with the law.

Government officials including ministers and MPs should not take advantage or benefit from public schemes that are designed to help Malawians. There should be absolute transparency, a clear distinction and a clear separation between “public official” and “Supplier”. Simply put, if you want to be a supplier to the government, you shouldn’t hold a public office, and shouldn’t be in a position where you can influence the awarding of contracts for your own personal benefit, or to benefit your company, your relatives’ company or a company belonging to your friends. That is the only way we will ensure that public resources are safeguarded, and are not misused or fraudulently diverted by such rackets.

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