Leader of the Opposition Chakwera offered President Mutharika a five-point plan to improve governance. Basically it is an anti corruption plan, nothing more than that. I find that quite limited if we look at the situation in the country (shrinking economy, health care below standard, security below standard, education below standard with several universities closed, chaos at the passport desk at immigration, chaos at the road traffic department, attacks on the freedom of the press and freedom of expression the list goes on and on).
The answer from government is also telling: they do not say anything about the contents of the plan, which means they have run out of ideas. They do not say: the plan is flawed in this way and we have a better plan: that way. They say: Chakwera is frustrated. They go for the man instead of the contents.
But if we stick to the anti corruption plan: Chakwera offers five points for repression of corruption, which is important. But he forgets a whole area that can be even more effective: prevention. Prevention has several advantages over repression: it is much cheaper and does much less of an imposition on scarce resources, and above all: with repression the crime has been committed and the damage done, with prevention there is no crime to attend to in the first place. But in the end you need both for the best effect.
So how do you prevent corruption?
Everyone who took the trouble of paying attention to the issue knows (and the person who does not can fix that by reading the website of Transparency International and some blog posts by the famous blogger John K Black). Here is a short list (for the ideas of Chakwera and Mutharika):
- 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 assention to 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 exercise 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.