reed, it has been said, is an inherent ingredient of human nature, and despite its disruptive and corrosive effect on society; it has been around from time immemorial. Invariably, the weak in character are easily corruptible.
Against this background, Section 88A (1)
of the Malawi Republican Constitution requires that the President and Cabinet Ministers, including Members of Parliament, must disclose all their assets, liabilities and business interests – as well as those of their spouses or any assets that are held on their behalf – upon election or appointment.
Such a declaration should be made in writing to the Speaker of the National Assembly within three months of their election or appointment. Section 13 (o)
of the Constitution further obliges the State to progressively adopt and implement policies and legislation aimed at achieving public trust and good governance as a principle of national policy by:introducing measures which will guarantee accountability, transparency, personal integrity and financial probity and which by virtue of their effectiveness and transparency will strengthen confidence in public institutions.
Despite this constitutional requirement and the incontrovertible importance of government officials to be publicly accountable to citizens, it has proven difficult for the political elite to disclose their assets in Malawi.
Corruption doesn’t only destroy social cohesion and trust, it undermines talent and efficiency, rewards the undeserving, lowers standards of performance, is unjust, tarnishes the image of a nation, and has a negative effect on business, investment and the poor.
While adequate legislation with firm punishment for corruption is no doubt imperative, and while Malawi has the basic framework in place, it is worrisome amongst the new President Joyce Banda’s achievements - she marks her first 100 days in office today – visibly missing was an announcement to the effect that she has declared her assets.
Three months have elapsed and we are yet to hear that President Joyce Banda has done the needful. In an environment where reporters have raised questions on the handling of the fertilizer tenders and the questionable decisions of the riot gear supply deal; we find this in the least worrisome.
This lack of transparency, this failure to declare assets, can lead to allegations of corruption and a sense of impunity. In the context that the president and her new team are wavering on this constitutional requirement, fertile minds can wrongly or rightly put one and one together and get a three.
There’s a lot of goodwill, locally and internationally, for the new Malawi under the hundred days or so old presidency. This goodwill is and will translate into money. Without declaring her assets upfront, as we have stated in the opening paragraph, President Banda is leading herself and her team into temptation.
In this first post, courtesy of the Maravi Post Corruption Watch on Malawi, this first salvo is on President Joyce Banda. Our message, our non-negotiable message is: Please lead by example desist from leading yourself not into temptation, declare your assets now as the constitution requires.
We may not be the first to make this demand, and we will not be last; but we can make one promise: We will not stop repeating and amplifying constitutional requirements vis-à-vis corruption until corruption is dead and buried giving birth to hope and prosperity.