“If you don’t like something,
If you can’t change it,
change your attitude”
So after a number of false starts the much-awaited forensic audit report into the infamous cashgate has finally been published. Well and good.
Like the Commission of Inquiry report into the death for President Bingu wa Mutharika, the forensic report into the infamous cashgate kept Malawians on the edge, waiting with bated breaths.
But to say that the report is an anti-climax will be an under-statement; the report is actually a disappointment to many.
I can see why.
Look, if truth be told, the report contains nothing we did not know already. Ok, it brought in new figures from K9 billion to K13 billion. But the narrative is the same – unscrupulous businesspeople and politicians connived with civil servants to skim from government millions of kwacha in payments for goods and services they shamelessly never rendered.
That information was already in the public arena. What people wanted were names, not just names, but names of particular ‘people’.
But look what we ended up with…a Form 1 algebra mumbo-jumbo – Company A got a cheque from Officer B in Ministry C and went to Bank D blah! blah! blah!
But let us not dismiss the report willy-nilly lest we throw out the baby with the bath water. Look, perhaps one positive thing to come out of all this is that President Joyce Banda allowed a team of international forensic auditors to look into cashgate, Malawi’s worst financial scandal in the entire half-a-century of our nationhood.
I am not sure how much her hand was forced but with some of her trusted lieutenants likely to be bruised with the report it was an act of bravery on the part of the President to let independent auditors work on the cashgate.
Baker Tilly is a reputable British firm. I am sure it has done a good job. The withholding of names is obviously a blot on the success of the report. But let us take them on their word that they have bared all to government agencies investigating cashgate, namely the police, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Financial Intelligence Unit.
After all, we already know the names of principle players in the cashgate, at least most of them. Perhaps what remains to be known is: were these ‘cashgaters’ working alone or on behalf of some other entities?
If we have a fair trial for these cashgate cases these answers will be provided.
I, for one, do not think Baker Tilly and their sponsors, the British government, would risk their reputations to do a shoddy job to cover up somebody’s back. What is in there for them?
I suggest that what we have to do as a nation now is to watch how the cashgate cases progress in the wake of the publication of the forensic report. Let us hope the cashgate cases will not stall on the usual – but lame – excuse that “we are still investigating”. Baker Tilly has done the leg work; let us move with speed.
But, while it is okay to train our sights on how the cashgaters will be treated in the wake of the Baker Tilly report, we must start a national conversation on how cashgate must not be repeated in the next 50 years.
It is ok to punish someone with cashgate on May 20 but if we do not reform our national psyche we will be having cashgates all the time albeit with different players.
Look, it is shameful to leave in a country where government is failing to properly look after its dead while it allows one individual to cart home K2 billion for goods and services not rendered. How many cold rooms can K2 billion maintain if directed properly?
The forensic report into the cashgate has succeeded in exposing lapses in our finance management system. We may have a reinforced Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) but, at the end of the day, it will still be operated by human beings given to political and financial interests.
I think reforming the civil service is key to a cashgate-free civil service. We have to seriously reform the civil service if we do not want to return to this conversation 50 years from now.
We must seriously create a motivated civil service comprising men and women who will be going to Capital Hill and its satellite offices scattered all over the Republic with one goal – to serve.
The current civil service comprise demotivated men and women whose only ‘motivation’ to remain in the civil service is to abuse the system. They look up to the next workshop, not with the aim of bettering their skills, but for the per diems that come with such ‘talk shops’.
Because nobody cares about government money, civil servants plot how to create ‘field days’ and phoney workshops. Remember that scam where civil servants accumulated up to 1,000 days in field days in a year that only lasts for 365 days?
But nothing happened to them because ‘such is life’ in our civil service.