By Thandie Chadzandiyani
LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-President Lazarus Chakwera’s Tonse administration has lost the plot again in ending corruption as funding to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has been cut by 14 percent in the proposed 2021/22 National Budget.
The country’s political analysts fear that the move will compromise the Tonse Alliance administration’s anti-graft fight in Malawi.
This week new ACB director general Martha Chizuma (Martha Chizuma wikipedia) flanked by her deputy Elia Bodole and senior staff presented the institution’s budget shortfall before the budget cluster committee of the Legal Affairs and Government Assurance.
In the new budget set to roll out on July 1, Treasury has allocated MK3.9 billion to the ACB against its proposed MK4.6 billion, creating a deficit of MK647 million or 14 percent.
In an interview after the meeting, Bodole said with such inadequate funding it will be challenging for the graft-busting agency to effectively carry out its functions.
“We really would have loved if we could get to every district, but for us to do that, it hinges on the budget. If the budget is increased, then we will be everywhere in Malawi.
“Treasury has just taken same figures of the previous financial year, divided by 12 [months] and multiplied by nine [months] for the new financial year,” he said.
Bodole said donors have supported the bureau with establishment of a forensic laboratory, but what is lacking is funding for obtaining licences.
Mulanje West member of Parliament (MP) Yusuf Nthenda (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP), who is co-chairperson of the cluster committee, said the deficit needs to be addressed by Treasury to ensure the bureau operates optimally.
He said it is hard to change the figures at the cluster committee level, but that in collaboration with the ACB they will engage Treasury on the matter.
Nthenda said the issue will be presented in Parliament for deliberations and considerations from Minister of Finance Felix Mlusu.
Reacting to the funding cut, University of Malawi professor of political science Happy Kayuni urged the Tonse Alliance administration to walk the talk on its commitment to fight corruption by adequately funding ACB.
He said President Lazarus Chakwera has publicly proclaimed that governance institutions such as the ACB will be adequately funded to fight corruption and promote rule of law.
Kayuni said brilliant leadership at the ACB will be rendered useless if the institution is denied desired funding. He said the expectation should be matching the same with resource allocation.
“We have seen governments preaching against corruption, but paralysing graft fighting institutions with under-funding. Fighting corruption is not cheap. For people in the office to perform, they need resources,” he observes.
In a separate interview, governance expert Dr. Henry Chingaipe said most of the work may not require a lot of money, but the prosecution of cases needs significant funding.
“The reduction in funding is across the board. There is no government ministry, department or agency [MDA] that has been given more money because of the modification of the financial year which has one quarter less,” says Dr Chingaipe.
The ACB presentation made before the cluster committee showed that in the 2020/21 National Budget they were allocated MK5.2 billion from MK3.2 billion in the 2019/20 National Budget.
From the MK5.2 billion, MK1.7 billion was for personal emoluments and MK3.5 billion for other recurrent transactions.
The ACB budget was not revised during the Mid-Year Budget Review and as at the end of April 2021, the total expenditure for the year amounted to MK3.6 billion, representing 69 percent of the approved budget.
In the next fiscal year, the ACB said there are 852 corruption complaints to be handled and processed and that 314 corruption cases are expected to be investigated. It also said 136 of the investigations were completed.
The funding to ACB has in recent years been fluctuating as in 2019/20 discal year Treasury allocated it MK3.7 billion while in 2017/18 financial year, the bureau’s funding dropped to MK938 million from MK2.4 billion allocated in 2016/17.
Chizuma is being overrated after performed well as Ombudsman as the nation is eager to witness her magic hand to clear the rumble of corruption in public service.
Martha says about herself, I am an Experienced Ombudsman with a demonstrated history of working in the government administration industry. Skilled in International Relations, Research, Policy Analysis, Program Management, and Public Speaking. Strong legal professional with a Hons Degree focused in Law from Chancellor College.