If we are not careful, the world may soon start relating us to all practices that border on dishonesty. More so when a year does not pass without getting reports of government departments and ministries failing to account for public resources.
The latest to drag us into the pit of shame is the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, which has been enmeshed in a scandal after failing to account for K467 million in the 2016/17 financial year.
This has been exposed in an audit report released by the office of the Auditor General (AG). In a typical case of a bad custodian of public resources, the report details how the ministry used funds in shady arrangements without following procedures.
In all seriousness, reports that the ministry acquired services of the same nature, for the same task, from two different companies does not give us confidence that custodians of public resources are prudent in the management of public resources.
We have not made this up as, according to the AG’s report, an examination of procurement records revealed that the ministry acquired services valued at K298 million from Wisdom Construction Limited for the construction of Nsanje Boma structures and, yet, the same ministry awarded another bidder, Ziuya Building Contractor, the same contract during open tendering.
This is a blatant disregard for laid out procedures and we suspect that officials did so willingly. The Public Procurement Act, in section 30 (11), stipulates that the use of a single source method of procurement is subject to approval by the Office of the Director of Public Procurement.
In other cases, the report shows that payments totalling to K86.4 million were paid to beneficiaries without duly stamped ‘PAID’ documents or acknowledgement of receipt by the beneficiaries.
To say the truth, the K467million that cannot be accounted for can go a long way in uplifting the life of someone, somewhere in a forgotten corner of Malawi. But, instead of putting money to good use, public officials do not feel ashamed to line their pockets with money meant for the service of the poor.
Reports like these dent the image of the government as well as the country’s citizens.
But, somehow, we feel that the government does not care. In fact, the government seems to be nurturing perpetrators of such malpractices because, even when such malpractices are exposed, those we entrusted with power choose to look the other side.
Of late, cases of public officials failing to account for funds have become common, but the officials are not even taken to task. Instead, they are merely transferred or given other tasks in the same department and workstation.
These are practices that are breeding a crop of dishonest, thieving public servants.
Moving forward, it is high time the government started taking controlling officers and all those responsible for the plunder of public resources to task. Let officials start paying for malpractices so that others may learn a lesson and keep away from that which does not belong to them.