Monday, September 17, 2007

Why Tax Justice: Corruption

Corruption has become one of the most debated topics in the development discourse today. We will feature different perspectives on the issue in every newsletter. Our first is from a student in Malawi reflecting on the government's Anti-Corruption drive.

Lack of Political Will Derails Anti-Corruption Drive in Malawi

By Madalitso Mphepo

Trying to root out corruption in Malawi, the Government set up the Anti-Corruption Bureau in 1996. This was done in order to bring to book those involved in corruption. Even our donors like Britain have donated generously to the activities of the bureau, which include areas such as capacity building and recruiting human resources as well as raising public awareness.

Though this is the case, there is little being done on the ground to curb corruption. The Bureau lacks the political will to take offenders to task. For instance, in June 2006, the Bureau arrested the former Head of State Dr Bakili Muluzi for the gross corruption during his ten year rule from 1994 to 2004. Within these years Dr Muluzi accumulated a lot of dubiously collected wealth to become one of the richest presidents in Africa while Malawi remained one of the poorest countries. Dr Muluzi was also accused in other dubious deals ranging from his acquisition of the plush Keza Office Park to his hand in the 2002 maize scam at Admarc.

To the amazement of many Malawians, the Government ordered his immediate release. The reasons behind all this were political in nature. The Government wanted to buy favors from Members of the National Assembly especially those from United Democratic Front, which is Muluzi’s Party. This was done in order to gather support for the 2006-2007 Financial Budget to pass in the August House. The Government was trying to reduce political tension, but at the same time it was denying justice to be heard among the people. As if this was not enough, the government forced the then director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Gustav Kaliwo, to resign within 48 hours.

Furthermore, the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly has frustrated the executive arm of government in their drive against corruption by refusing twice to recommend the newly appointed Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau Tumalisye Ndovi. Some quarters accuse the PAC of double standards in exercising their powers because they are failing to give reasons why they refused the appointment of Tumalisye Ndovi as the new Director of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.

In summation, many observers in Malawi view the anti-corruption drive in Malawi as far from producing good fruits. Though the president of Malawi Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika is preaching zero tolerance of corruption, there is a lot to be done. The government through the Anti-Corruption Bureau is fighting petty corruption leaving top government officials who are involved in gross corruption. The government should strengthen its muscle to bring to book those involved in corruption regardless of political affiliation, religion, race and region. The government should also enact strict laws against corruption, if ever the battle against corruption is to be won.

Madalitso Mphepo is a 2nd year student at Domasi College of Education studying religious studies and geography.

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