By Duncan Mlanjira
In his engagements with the education sector to appreciate the strides they are making in the implementation of public sectors reforms, Vice-President Saulos Chilima — who is also Minister for Economic Planning & Development and Public Sector Reforms — was not impressed with Malawi Institute of Management (MIM) own management style.
However, in his report posted on Facebook, Chilima praised Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), University of Malawi (UNIMA), Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) and the Malawi Examinations Board (MANEB).
On MIM, Chilima said the institution’s presentation was the most uninspiring portrait of an organization since he resumed working on public sector reforms under the administration of President Lazarus Chakwera.
The engagements to appreciate the strides learning institutions are making in the implementation of public sectors reforms are aimed at making their institutions efficient and effective.
“If [MIM] is an institution that was established to train top civil servants then as it stands, the institution is not up to the task under its current leadership,” Chilima said.
“Clearly, as of now MIM is an organization that is being run down — it I s regressing [and] I told them I do not have time to waste and they better come again when they are ready and prepared for a discussion meant to perfect an organization.
“From their financial presentation, one can tell that the organization is on its deathbed. I have been told that the institution has experienced persistent cash flow challenges resulting into lawsuits; and suppliers refusing to offer them goods and services as well as accumulating arrears in taxes and pension contributions.
“With this obtaining, I expected the Executive Director to be in control of the situation and explain what has led to the current state of affairs and possible solutions being lined up to turn around the situation.
“However, it seemed the ED did not have any idea how the institution has found itself in this situation, three years after being at the helm.
“The presentation had no direction and it was difficult to offer input. I therefore asked them to leave and prepare or if they are not up to the task, resign and go home.”
Chilima commended MUST, not only for the clear presentation and the clarity of thought of the vision it has, but also for the kind of progressive reforms that the institution is embarking on to ensure financial sustainability in future.
“I couldn’t agree more with Professor Address Mauakowa Malata, the Vice Chancellor, who said that ‘no University in the world makes progress if it is dependent on government’.
“To achieve such a desired state of financial sustainability, MUST plans to come up with a number of activities including the establishment of an endowment fund, construction of an Industrial Park, introduction of online learning as well as aggressive research and consultancies.
“Meanwhile, the institution has implemented some of the reforms that we tasked them with in 2015 and currently MUST is on track implementing the remaining ones.
“There is also clear organisational growth with intake increasing from 153 in 2014 to 2,699 in 2020. It is also commendable that the number of female students has increased from 40 in 2014 to 731 in 2020.”
All things being equal, Chilima said, MUST sounds to be a success story with a clear strategic plan.
“However, we have challenged the University to continue thinking big as it embarks on various projects including construction of more hostels, houses for lecturers, an industrial park and laboratories.
On LUANAR, Chilima said he was satisfied with the progress that has been made from where it started a few years ago and also commended it for the progressive reforms that the management is putting up and the clear strategic direction that they have.
“Just like the clarity that we saw from MUST, LUANAR’s presentation too had clarity of thought and a clear roadmap of the vision they have for the institution.
“LUANAR’s reforms are clearly classified — there are those to be implemented in the shortest period possible that range from institutional governance reforms to resource mobilization reforms while those in the medium to long term, border on energy source diversification, general operations and teaching and learning environment.
“I have commended LUANAR management for the energy source diversification reform which aims at providing different sources of energy at LUANAR campuses and that so far progress is underway towards implementation of this particular reform.
“All in all, LUANAR continues to be a success story with commitment towards its reforms especially those that tilt towards financial sustainability.”
Next up was UNIMA where discussion centred mainly on one reform area that has been under implementation — the delinking of its colleges, a process that started in 2018.
“This unbundling process has led to the creation of three colleges — Chancellor College to be the new UNIMA, College of Medicine and Kamuzu College to merge into Kamuzu University of Health Sciences (KUHeS) while the Polytechnic to be Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (MUBAS).
“I have been updated that from where we left, there have been a number strides towards conclusion of the delinking exercise. Parliament adopted legislation to create the three colleges and the Bills were assented to.
“What remains now is for the Ministry of Education to issue a commencement notice to put in effect the creation of the three colleges.
“However, there are still a number of financial, logistical and technical issues to be finalised for the delinking process to be in a state of readiness.
“On that point, we have agreed that we will all put shoulders to the wheel to ensure that the exercise is concluded in the shortest period possible.
“A decision was made to delink the colleges — progress has been made including a Bill which was already assented to, therefore it is time for implementation.
“I have said it now and then that once we make decisions as a country we must implement and move on.”
On MANEB, Chilima said the institution was tasked with five reform areas and so far the examination board has managed to implement three.
“To this effect, MANEB will be embarking on new reforms including institutional reforms to improve service delivery as well as to curb internal risks such as mis-procurement.
“However, it was disappointing to note that one of the reform areas that MANEB was tasked with has not been fully implemented because, as presented, the supplier did not meet their obligation.
“The particular reform area in question was meant to help MANEB save resources through development of an in-house printing capacity. Progress was made in that a heavy duty machine for the task was procured and installed in July 2018 as reported in the meeting.
“However, we have been told that two years down the line the machine is yet to be commissioned because it is faulty or arrived with technical challenges.
“The instruction I have given is that the supplier must be engaged and have the machine operational in the shortest period possible [and for] MANEB provide feedback by Friday this week,” Chilima said.