The president spoke beautifully on the anti corruption day function. Patriotism and all. Change of mindset. This needs to be followed up by policy, a policy that promotes good governance.
The mindset that the President wants to change does not come out of no-where. It is not like Malawians have a propensity for corruption. The “deeply entrenched corruption” (words of the President) in Malawi comes, not out of a defect in Malawians’ morality. It comes out of an environment in which corruption is rewarded, and honesty is not. That environment needs to be changed for the good of all.
At the moment the individual who pursues his/her own interest at the cost of the population is rewarded. But the one who promotes honesty is being kept out of the loop. We need to reverse this trend with a number of strictly adhered measures that make corruption more difficult and punish the perpetrator.
- A change in labour laws that make corruption a reason for immediate dismissal, even before the criminal has been convicted (convictions always take years in Malawi’s s l o w judicial system) Standard must be a repay of all illegal gains at the cost of the organization.
- Immediate passing of the Access to Information Bill with inclusion of all documents with no time limit, and without the limiting clause that the documents must be “for the excercise of one’s rights” Any government documents that are not endangering National Security must be public. If a document is claimed to endanger National Security a strong motivation must be given.
- Big signs in all government offices with the rights and duties of office bearers and the rights and duties of the population in Chichewa and English and where needed in the local language. The signs must show contact details for the complaints procedure. For instance in Admarc depots, for people being shortchanged when buying maize, and at roadblocks, to show which goods can freely be transported and for which ones a license is needed, and how to obtain the license.
- Empowerment of the ACB, Fiscal Police and Financial Intelligence Unit with staff and equipment, and cars from the Presidential Convoy, together with their drivers and fuel allowances.
- Training of the police, immigration service, road traffic and other offices perceived to be corrupt (according to the Malawian population in the TI report) with classroom training as well as role play (like Forum Theatre): what do you do if you notice corruption? Role play, the police officer can take the role of the actor playing the colleague noticing corruption.
- A website publishing all regulations, anything left out is not legally binding. A website can be updated in real time, so this is perfectly feasible. This one will work mostly for bigger projects as the local population has limited access to internet. But for building project and such it is important. It will also attract more Direct Foreign Investment, because an investor wants to know the environment he/she invests in.
- Overhaul of the regulatory framework: Transparency International has found one of the biggest drivers of corruption is unclear regulations and procedures. Simple regulations that are strictly enforced will level the playing field for the private sector, and limit corruption. O the other hand, the current situation with very complex regulations which are intermittently enforced produces corruption. If the individual duty bearer can decide which rule to enforce and which one to ignore, this is a recipe for corruption.
- All regulations must have time limits, so no handouts can be solicited for quick processing of any regulation. Again there must be a clear, quick and effective complaints procedure.
The Zero Tolerance on Corruption Policy of Bingu was far from perfect, and it lost steam after a few years, but it has shown us that in the first few years Bingu could limit corruption with sufficient political will. This did grow the country in the right direction. But he also showed us that loss of political will turns back the gains very quickly. We need a long and persistent fight against corruption to turn the tide and make Malawi beautiful and efficient again.