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Bishops in Malawi Laud New Government’s “conspicuously positive” Fight Against Corruption

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM).

Catholic Bishops in Malawi have lauded the efforts by the country’s new government in the fight against corruption saying moves to curb the vice in the Southeastern African nation by previous regimes were “insincere.”

In the statement authored by officials of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP), the Bishops acknowledge, in reference to the new national leadership, “the conspicuously positive and forward-looking actions by the Government to fight corruption.”

“It is the observation of CCJP that, generally, the fight against corruption has been insincere. This is why we closely and critically note the desirable and practical steps that have been recently taken by the Government to fight the vice,” members of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) say in the Wednesday, August 5 statement obtained by ACI Africa.

They add, “The dissolution of the boards of parastatals; the reformist approach to handling Government business in ministries, departments, agencies and local councils point to a renewed and rejuvenated way of fighting corruption.”

“However, CCJP is of the view that beyond the arrest of suspected people, the Government must ensure that more efforts are put in place to prevent corruption through strengthening existing systems aimed at combating the vice,” the Bishops say in their statement issued through CCJP, the governance and advocacy arm of their Conference.

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Since taking office in June, President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera-led government has been striving to fulfil its promise of fighting corruption in the landlocked Southeastern African nation.

In July, the security aide of former President Peter Mutharika, Norman Chisal, was arrested in connection with a US$7 million cement import scandal.

Security agencies also arrested the acting police commissioner of Malawi’s central region, Evalista Chisale, in relation to the death of an albino murder suspect who has been in police custody. 

In the August 5 statement signed by the National CCJP Coordinator, Boniface Chibwana, the Church leaders say that although “the recent spate of arrests of suspects may further excite the majority of poor Malawians,” rooting out the vice will be no mean feat considering its history.

“The systemic nature of the vice in the country requires much more. Institutional, legal, professional and financial safeguards should be the focus of the reforms to attain a corrupt-free Malawian society,” the Bishops in Malawi state.

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As a way forward, the Church leaders offer a number of recommendations to ensure the fight against graft is effective. 

“The war against corruption requires changing the professional behaviors of people associated with public service,” they say and recommend, “Lifestyle audits of public servants and their close associates, strengthening integrity systems and the recognition of merit and excellence in the public service as well as restoring the culture and spirit of servant-hood in public service provision have the potential to combat corruption in Malawi.”

Malawians “yearn for the recovery of their tax money and property lost in the numerous illicit and corrupt deals,” the Bishops say and suggest that the national leadership “sanitizes the public service through appointing people with appropriate and unquestionable credentials to head public institutions.”

“The government should strive to recover public resources and assets in the numerous corruption cases it is pursuing within a reasonable time,” the Bishops further recommend in the August 5 statement.

They also advocate for the strengthening of various institutions in the country including the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Office of the Ombudsman, Directorate of Assets Declaration, Fiscal Police and the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) “through adequate financing and human resources.”

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“Conferring genuine operational independence on these bodies will certainly pay dividends,” the Bishops say in reference to the institutions that aid the fight against corruption.

They underscore the need to respect the autonomy of the institutions saying, “The country cannot meaningfully fight corruption when political interference impinges these bodies’ independence amid incessant and long-standing funding constraints.”

The government, they add in the two-page statement, “should desist from nepotism, politics of patronage, cronyism and rent-seeking in the conduct of Government business including in recruitment processes and Government contracting and procurement.” 

The Bishops implore the Members of Parliament in Malawi “to rise above party politics and exercise effective oversight on the management of public affairs” through the relevant parliamentary committees.

“Reports from the Office of the Auditor-General on Government accounts should be acted upon with urgency. Malawians are interested to see the logical conclusions of the cases,” they tell the legislators. 

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The Bishops also recommend an expedited review of the legal shortfalls that hamper the anti-corruption drive and a review of the quality of development work constructed using different funding modalities in the councils.