By Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, Director of Information
LILONGWE-(MANA)-It is called Servant Leadership. Two days after returning three different summits abroad, one summit with the World Economic Forum in Switzerland and two summits with the African Union in Equatorial Guinea, President Lazarus Chakwera announced on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 austerity measures that his government would be implementing in the light of the devaluation of the Kwacha.
President Chakwera directed the Ministry of Finance and Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to correct the misalignment of the foreign currency exchange rate.
On May 26, 2022, the RBM announced a 25 percent devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha in order to boost foreign exchange reserves and stabilize the market and the Malawi economy.
Addressing the journalists at Kamuzu Palace on Tuesday, President Chakwera said that in view of the anticipated rise in the cost of imported goods affecting all of Malawians, he gave the Minister of Finance a list of public spending cuts for him to start implementing this June.
“Both decisions (currency realignment and cutting spending) are part of our ongoing efforts to cure our economy of the failed economic policies of the past,” said the Malawi leader.
The Head of State noted that a misaligned exchange rate was making the economy worse by the day, especially for importers whose businesses were getting paralyzed. He said it was therefore necessary to put in place painful measures for long-term economic recovery, and the realignment is one of those measures.
“I know that the realignment of the exchange rate inflicts pain on all of you, because any increase in the price of imported commodities forces you to cut your spending. So it is important that we who are your public servants do the same, because the pain of making spending cuts due to the global rise in prices must be shared. The measures I gave the Minister to cut public spending are as follows, and these may not be amended by any Government Ministry, Agency, Department, or Parastatal without prior authorization from my office:
1) Public officers, including myself, who need to travel abroad for their work out of absolute necessity will only be allowed to take no more than three trips during the remainder of the year, unless in cases of unforeseen extreme emergency.
2) The number of people in a delegation travelling abroad will be subjected to stringent restrictions.
3) No top-up allowances will be paid to public officers on fully funded trips for work, training, workshops, or conferences.
4) Ministry officials traveling within the region for work must fly economy class.
5) All controlling officers will be held responsible for ensuring strict adherence to spending limits we have set for domestic travel.
6) All boards of State-Owned Enterprises and Statutory Corporations must confine themselves to quarterly meetings, plus one extraordinary meeting per quarter for emergency situations pursuant to the approval of the line Minister, unless allowed otherwise by my office.
7) Allocation of fuel allowance for all Cabinet Members is to be cut by 20%. 8) The issuance of fuel to public officers who are not entitled to the same is forbidden, and my office will soon provide detailed guidelines on how this will be regulated.
8) The Minister of Transport is directed to provide guidelines to MDAs for the Government-wide adoption of distance charts to regulate fuel consumption per vehicle.
9) The movement of pool vehicles owned by the Government beyond 6pm shall be restricted, and no driver shall be permitted to take such vehicles to their homes, and controlling officers must justify to my office any emergency exceptions to be made.
10) Procurement of new vehicles by MDAs has forthwith been suspended until further notice from my office, and when this restriction is lifted, my office will regulate what model of vehicles are procured for public officers of different grades to end the culture of people feeling entitled to 4 x 4s.
11) To end the practice of public officers driving Government vehicles they are not authorized to, all public officers authorized to self-drive will soon be issued with an authorization card to be enforced on the roads by the police.
12) The renewal or signing of new employment contracts in all State-Owned Enterprises is forbidden forthwith, except for special circumstances that must be approved by my office, and this restriction will not be lifted until the Office of the Comptroller of Statutory Corporations is done reviewing the remuneration in this sector to ensure that it reflects the state of the economy and the performance of the institution.
13) No procuring entity in the Government shall be allowed to import goods or services into the country unless proof that the goods and services cannot be procured locally is submitted to and approved by the Minister of Finance.
14) To build a robust monitoring system that ensures strict adherence to these measures and other directives in all MDAs, I have appointed Ms. Colleen Zamba as the new Secretary to the President and Cabinet with immediate effect, taking over from Mr. Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi, whom I am deploying elsewhere. Ms. Zamba will communicate other spending control measures in due course”.
President Chakwera said that while he was away, he learnt from both the social media and main stream media houses that at a court proceeding in the United Kingdom, some senior officials in his administration were named as accomplices in acts of corruption allegedly committed by a British citizen under investigation there.
It is alleged that the said British citizen had corrupted senior Malawi government officials, including the Vice President, State House Chief of Staff, the Solicitor General, the Inspector General of the Malawi Police Service, the Chairperson of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA), and a Malawi Police Service lawyer.
“Admittedly, these are serious allegations, and I know you are anxious and filled with suspicion, and I understand the anguish and anger you all feel from hearing these allegations. I feel the same distress you do from hearing allegations of corruption in the highest offices in the land, and I am just as frustrated as you are to hear that the British suspect recently visited Malawi and none of the agencies actively investigating him here, thus missing a golden opportunity to make progress on the matter.
“But it is not enough for me to feel angry. You elected me to make decisions that make our country better. And I took an oath of office that when making any decision, including in matters of justice, I would do so ‘according to law without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.’ That means my decisions as President must uphold certain principles of justice, regardless of my feelings and frustrations,” said the President, explaining that it is these principles of justice that make Malawi a civilized society, and so these named officials should not be sacrificed in the name of anger and anguish.
The Malawi leader said one of those principles is that every citizen has a constitutional right to defend themselves against an accuser, and at this point, none of these individuals have been charged by any court where they can answer for themselves.
“Another principle is that everyone’s side of the story must be heard, and at this point, none of these individuals have even been invited for interviews or questioning by investigators to hear their side of the story, and now a whole week has passed since the allegations against them were reported, yet our investigators have not even seen the need or urgency to interview them.
“A third principle of justice is that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty of a charge tendered in a credible court of law, and at this point, no court in Malawi has charged these individuals of any crime.
“It is because I am required by law to uphold these principles that I have always waited for our own respected investigators or courts to bring charges against someone before taking executive action concerning their position,” said President Chakwera.
NEW ANTI-CORRUPTION CAMPAIGN
President Lazarus Chakwera announced at the press conference “a new nationwide campaign for driving corruption out of Government agencies”, which will be launched this July at a National Anti-Corruption Conference that he will host.
He said such a campaign against corruption is necessary because going by the recent findings that corruption is getting worse, the campaign to fight it also needs to be intensified.
“For that to happen, the campaign must involve all stakeholders, including the civil service, civil society organizations, the media, the private sector, the faith community, traditional leaders, and international partners. Most importantly, it needs the involvement of citizens,” said the President.
According to the Malawi leader, the National Anti-Corruption Conference will bring together representatives of all the government entities in which corruption happens, as well as other stakeholders across Malawi, to identify the loopholes and gaps that still exist in Government and are used for corruption.
The conference will also be a platform for having an honest national dialogue about the ways Malawi as a society creates an enabling environment for corruption, and devise ways of changing it together, he added.
“Going forward, my pledge to all of you is simple: no matter what challenges we face or what changes they demand, I will always act in your best interest as your servant and act in accordance with the law to the best of my ability, so help me God,” concluded President Chakwera.