Review of Beyond Impunity: New Directions for Governance in Malawi, edited by Kenneth R. Ross, Asiyati L. Chiweza, and Wapulumuka O. Mulwafu, University of Cape Town Press & Mzuni Press, 2022; pp. 396; ISBN 9789996076077
Chapter 1 – A Decade of Governance as “Roving Banditry” The Political Economy of Public Finance Mismanagement in Malawi, 2010-2020 by Henry Chingaipe (pp. 47 – 76)
Reviewed by Chimwemwe D. Chitimbe Kandodo (Head of Department, Political Leadership, Catholic University of Malawi)
This chapter is written by a well-qualified Dr. Henry Chingaipe who has an interest in governance, development, political economy analysis, public sector reforms, and civic space. The chapter opens with a quotation from Mr. Paul Mphwiyo, former government budget director which reads, “The entire Government of Malawi is a criminal enterprise …. That is what I discovered.” This quotation tallies very well with the title of the chapter and prepares the reader for what to expect from the chapter.
The introduction of the chapter is inspired by the inaugural speech of the incumbent President, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, who enumerated eight types of public finance mismanagement, namely corruption, laziness, passivism, donor dependency, regionalism, negativity, impunity, unprofessionalism, and incompetence. Among the examples of rampant public finance mismanagement are the unlawful sharing of 177 tractors and 144 maize shellers which cost a total sum of USD 50 million that was borrowed from India; the mismanagement of 4.2 million litres of fuel worth MWK 4 billion stolen from ESCOM by cadres of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP); and the loss of MWK 47 million to ghost workers on civil service payroll in the Ministry of Agriculture.
The author employs the metaphor of “roving banditry” to describe public finance mismanagement. This metaphor aptly captures the leakage of resources in Malawi due to theft by public servants.
The chapter concludes by proffering solutions to public finance mismanagement in Malawi. The solutions include civic empowerment of citizens beyond the provision of information about their rights; ethical political leadership with an unwavering will to improve public finance management and to ensure value for money; and the removal of those involved in the mismanagement of funds.
The chapter is a must-read for academics, civil society activists, and government officials. However, the latest information on measures to control corruption in Malawi could have been provided. Furthermore, in illustrating the development cost of the MWK90 billion and MWK20 billion mismanaged when the government was under late President Bingu Wamutharika and President Joyce Banda, respectively, the author says, “In the 2014/2015 national budget, the health sector was allocated a total of MWK69 billion representing 9.2% of the total budget. Thus, with MWK110 billion government could have effectively supported the delivery of services in all government health facilities across the country for more than 2 years.” To be realistic, MWK 110 billion would have sufficed for two years, not more than that.