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Sundays with Cedrick: Fighting Corruption Requires Thinking Outside the Box

Malawi President
FILE – Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera takes the oath of office in Lilongwe, Malawi, June 28, 2020.

With Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

A week ago, President Lazarus Chakwera addressed the nation outlining his action following the release of the report, “Usage and Accountability of The K6.2 Billion COVI-19 Disbursement”. The report had been commissioned after a public outcry over the missing K6.2 billion COVID-19 funds.

In the address, the president informed the nation that everybody who misused the COVID-19 funds would be arrested and be made to pay back. He also announced the dismissal of a cabinet minister whose ministry ‘borrowed’ money from the COVID-19 fund. These actions, he said, were proof that he takes matters of corruption very seriously.

Listening to the speech, it was interesting to note the many times the president emphasized that he was taking action ‘based on the report’, yet his actions did not seem to line up with the report’s recommendations.   The president appeared to have only embraced a small part of the report and totally ignored an aspect of the report that was heavily emphasized by the authors. One has to wonder whether his many social media supporters picked up on that paradox.

The report found issues of poor management among the leadership of the COVID-19 taskforce. The report authors noted that: “Guidelines on COVID-19 funds’ management and reporting were not provided to the clusters, as a result, preparation and submission of expenditure returns was not prioritized by both the clusters and the presidential taskforce.”

The report further observed that key stakeholders in the program had no clear roles and responsibilities, and that structures within the program were incompetent and lacked balanced representation of key professionals.

And there it is, in black and white:  The main problem with the COVID-19 funds was gross incompetence at the very top of the presidential taskforce. The inability to properly manage the funds is what led to the embezzlement. Over and over again, the report conclusions hit back at the same theme. For the record, it must be pointed out that the co-chairperson of the presidential taskforce on COVID-19 is Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, the Minister of Health.

Corruption fighting has two companion sides: the ‘punishment’ side and the ‘good management’ side. Of these two sides, the ‘good management’ side is much more important than the ‘punishment’ side. You cannot eliminate corruption by simply punishing people. Punishment is a necessary but insufficient part of the process. Human beings will always risk punishment for a better life for themselves and their families. In China, the punishment for corruption is death; yet corruption still abound in China. In Singapore, the punishment for selling drugs is death, yet Singapore is not free of drugs.

While you must punish corrupt people, the greatest deterrent against corruption is the ability to manage resources in such a way that people are not tempted to steal. Systems must be structured in a such a way that human fragility is not given an opportunity to misuse resources.  It is for this reason that when you land at western customs entry ports like Los Angeles International Airport, you see an elaborate customs declaration process that makes it virtually impossible for the customs officer to be corrupt.

An effective presidential response to the COVID-19 report should have included a complete overhaul of the presidential COVID-19 taskforce and its leadership. Anything less than that is window dressing and a waste of time.

By the way, do you know why the president decided to fire a minister whose ministry borrowed and return COVID-19 funds, but left the minister of health untouched?

A few years ago, the Rosier School of Education at the University of Southern California posted on its walls an image of a large box. Pointing to the box, they inscribed the following words: “The thinking that takes place within here, does not occur here”.

That is probably the kind of mentality Malawians should adopt.

Send me an email: cedrick.goliati.ngalande@gmail.com

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Cedrick Ngalande
Cedrick Ngalandehttps://www.maravipost.com/
I am a strategic engineering executive with the technical breadth necessary to oversee all functions within the engineering team, with proven success in mentoring highly talented and successful engineers who aspire to perform with accountability for achieving their personal best while also meeting or exceeding company goals. I have always represented the company to the highest standards regarding engineering strategy, performance and outlook. My strong background in aerospace engineering, computer programming, stochastic processes and engineering probability is a result of my expertise in space environments with specialties in direct simulations Monte Carlo (DSMC) and computational fluid dynamics (CFD), predictive science, investment and financial engineering. As an effective leader, I also bring a business focus in areas including corporate strategy, project analytics, materials planning, production and procurement. This business acumen is combined with my demonstrated technical tactical leadership. My key strengths include: - Engineering Management - Leadership / Mentor / Team Development - Quantitative / Qualitative Methods - Financial Engineering - DSMC / CFD - Numeric Modeling - Investment Analysis - SAP /ERP
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