Malawi Country Profile

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Malawian Public Anti-Corruption Initiatives

  • Government Strategies: Since President Mutharika was elected in 2004, anti-corruption has been at the top of the political agenda. Malawi has a comprehensive anti-corruption legal framework, but ten years after the initial establishment of the anti-corruption agencies, the mechanisms are still ineffective, and the government continues to struggle to implement the laws. However, the President's commitment was further cemented when Malawi launched the National Anti-Corruption Strategy in January 2009. The strategy has a holistic approach to the fight against corruption in Malawi and its main focus is the development of a National Integrity System. One of the activities envisioned in the strategy is a collaboration between the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Ministry of Trade and Private Sector Development, the Office of the Director of Public Procurement and Business Action Against Corruption (BAAC) in order to develop anti-corruption mechanisms that will prevent corruption among SMEs. The monitoring of the implementation of the strategy is to be done by a National Integrity Committee.


  • Anti-Corruption Agency: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was set up in 1995, in accordance with its implementing legislation, the Corrupt Practices Act 1995. The ACB is an independent and autonomous government body which uses a four-way approach against corruption: investigations, prosecution, prevention and public education. The ACB is dependent on the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) for prosecutions, and the DPP is directly nominated by the President. Following the amendment of the Corrupt Practices Act in 2004, the ACB has increased its efficiency, handled a vast number of cases and undertaken investigations of and conducted a number of trials against both politicians and businesspeople. However, the ACB still faces serious financial and human resource constraints, such as when it ran without a director a few years ago. A scandal evolved when the acting director was accused of receiving two salaries, one from ACB and the other from the police where he had previously worked. The government was forced by the opposition to remove him from office. The ACB has consistently run into problems in relation to obtaining the necessary consent from the DPP to prosecute high-profile cases. The ACB is undertaking civic education efforts, such as workshops and campaigns in the media, leading to greater public visibility of the ACB. The anti-corruption measures conducted by the ACB involve reviewing procedures, systems and methods in public as well as private organisations, and advising on best practices with regard to prevention and detection of corruption.

  • Ombudsman: The Office of the Ombudsman was established by the 1994 Constitution and is an important governance institution in terms of enhancing public awareness about the misuse of public office. The office has the mandate to investigate 'cases where it is alleged that any person has suffered injustice'. The office receives foreign funding, although it still lacks adequate resources. The office is known to keep a high public profile, but it struggles with significant institutional weaknesses, and there is some ambiguity about its jurisdiction.

  • Auditor General: The National Audit Office (NAO) is the supreme audit institution in Malawi. Its mandate derives from the constitution and the Public Audit Act 2003. The NAO is independent and is only accountable to Parliament. It is the responsibility of the NAO to audit all accounts of all public agencies, as well as some donor-funded projects in Malawi. It is the aim of the NAO to contribute to the principles of good governance, transparency, accountability and sound financial management in Malawi's public sector. The NAO is headed by the Auditor General and reports to Parliament through annual reports, whereas instances of fraud, corruption and other types of crime are reported to the responsible authorities. The NAO lacks adequate resources both financially and in terms of human resources, and it is often the case that its audit reports receive insufficient political attention.

  • Legal Profession's Disciplinary Committee (LPDC): The LPDC is empowered by the Legal Practitioners Act of 1965 to conduct enquiries into allegations of indiscipline and to fight for accountability both in the public and private sector. The committee consists of the solicitor general (a state legal officer) and two members elected from the Malawi Law Society.

  • E-Governance: The public can calculate their taxes using the official tax-calculator on the website of the Malawi Revenue Authority. One can download various forms for applications for investment certificates, business residence permits, temporary employment permits and others at the website of the Malawi Investment Promotion Agency (MIPA). Applications must be mailed to the MIPA.

  • Public Procurement: Public procurement regulations prohibit the abuse of information obtained in official capacity as well as the disclosure by public officers of interest in contracts and proposed contracts. The Public Procurement Act 2003 requires procurement regulations to provide thresholds for the use of procurement methods, bid evaluation procedures and contract management. The Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) was established in 2004 to monitor and oversee all public sector procurement activities, to ensure transparency and value for money and to maximise the potential for public procurement to support sustainable development. Tenders are publicised at the ODPP website and most calls for bids are placed in the media. The ODPP website has an archive of closed and awarded tenders, and has an anonymous e-mail based hotline for reporting irregularities in the tendering process. Sources note an insufficient capacity in the procurement institutions as well as a pervasive lack of capacity among NGOs as a factor inhibiting civil society's involvement in the monitoring of public procurement. The Public Procurement Act stipulates that bidders that try to influence the procurement decisions through corruption or in any other way will be barred from bidding. Furthermore, unsuccessful bidders have the opportunity to launch complaints to the head of the procurement entity before the contract takes effect. Once the complaint has been received, the bidder should receive an answer before 10 working days. According to Global Integrity 2009, the law establishes regulations addressing conflicts of interest for public procurement officials, as well as mandatory professional training for public procurement officials. The same source reports that conflicts of interest regulations for public procurement officials are usually enforced. However, it is also reported that there is no legal mechanism to monitor the assets, incomes and spending habits of public procurement officials and that the law is unclear regarding the barring of bidders guilty of major violations of procurement regulations, such as bribery. The law only restricts these bidders from the current and not future procurements. Hence, in practice, many companies barred from a previous bid are able to bid again on all future tenders.

  • Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST): Malawi is a part of the pilot program for CoST, which is a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative designed to be applicable to any country and to any government department or agency with responsibility for public-sector construction projects. The committee overseeing the implementation of CoST in the country consists of members from government, the construction industry, civil society, as well as donor oganisations. CoST aims at promoting the concepts of transparency and accountability in the construction sector and focuses specifically on public disclosure of information. The ultimate aim is to enhance the accountability of procuring bodies and construction companies for the cost and quality of public-sector construction projects. 
  • Whistle-Blowing: The Corrupt Practices Act 1995 provides for protection of whistleblowers and informants, but the implementation of the infrastructure and the procedures for this protection is lagging behind. Citizens are legally obliged to report cases of corruption to either the police or to the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Some sources are positive about the establishment of a hotline with the ACB, but the hotline is readily available on the Internet, and it is not reported whether it is anonymous. The World Bank Governance and Corruption Baseline Survey 2006 indicates that the vast majority of both public officials as well as ordinary citizens who observed corrupt practices did not report them and that 57% of citizens disagreed with the statement that the reporting process protected the reporter from harassment. A further problem is that only 15% of surveyed citizens knew how to report corruption, according to the US State Department 2009. However, the quality and quantity of complaints increased during 2008.

  • General Comments on the Public Anti-Corruption Initiatives: The legitimacy of the change in attitude towards corruption by the present government has been questioned by some sources. Critics highlight the need for expanded and improved civic education programmes to create an environment that condemns corruption and protects whistleblowers. Relevant anti-corruption bodies have generally not lived up to the public's expectations and the perception is that they are only serious about petty corruption cases and neglect grand scale corruption. The Office of the Ombudsman is cited by some sources with higher regard than the ACB. However, in the World Bank Governance and Corruption Baseline Survey 2006, 60% of Malawians report that the ACB has effectively contributed to the fight against corruption, while 80% of citizens in the Afrobarometer 2008 are positive about the government's anti-corruption efforts.