Cashgate audit report out by Friday, no doctoring- Malawi gov’t spokesman

A British forensic audit report on Malawi’s “Cashgate” scandal  involving the looting of about $20 million (K8.9 billion), will be released this week, Minister of Information and Civic Education, Brown Mpinganjira.

Mpinganjira told a news conference in Lilongwe on Wednesday to contradict Stevenson Kamphasa, Malawi’s auditor general, who said the report will delay further.

February 18, was the day the Auditor General’s office was set to handover the report to the Minister of Finance who would then release it to the public.

Mpinganjira:  Report will be ready this week

Mpinganjira: Report will be ready this week

A statement released Tuesday by the National Audit Office said the delay is a result of the need to ensure that the audit report meets international standards.

But speaking to reporters on Wednesday in Lilongwe, Mpinganjira who is also government spokesman, said the report will be released in not too distant future, saying “I can’t see it taking any longer this week.”

Said he: “I can see that the forensic auditors will resubmit the report to Auditor General in a few hours and he should then be able to take to Parliament through Minister of Finance.”

Mpinganjira also dismissed claims that Government is deliberately withholding results of the report to suit its interests, rubbishing such claims. He said government cannot in any way doctor the report since it has already been submitted to the British Government which sponsored preparation of the report.

“It should be understood that the British Government is responsible for sponsoring the forensic audit report and as such before the findings are released to the Malawi Government it shall first be submitted to the British Government and later copied to the Government of Malawi,” explained Mpinganjira.

The minister then disclosed that the delay to release the report is as a result of stages involved when carrying any research.

“The forensic Auditors finalized their draft findings and sent them to the Auditor General on the night of 13 February, 2014. As per required by the constitution, after scrutinizing the draft copy of the report the Auditor General made some comments which needed to be clarified by the forensic Auditors.

“As I am talking to you the forensic auditors are in the country having meetings with the Malawi’s Auditor General trying to finalise the report. I am hoping that by end of this week, the report should be ready for submission,” he explained.

According to Mpinganjira, no government official apart from the Auditor General has seen the forensic report including President Joyce Banda.

Last Friday the British High Commissioner to Malawi, Michael Nevin, released a statement saying that they had been informed by government about the delay.

“We have noted some comments raising concerns about the credibility of the forensic audit report because it has not been made public…While a draft is complete, there are certain finalizing procedures that the auditors need to go through as standard practice,” he said in a statement.

Additionally, the UK envoy said, as an extra surety, the British Government will also receive copies direct from the auditors. “The focus should then be on the necessary actions that the authorities will need to take in response to the report.”

The Grand Coalition of Civil Society Organisations has accused government of taking Malawians for granted with the persistent postponements to release the report to the public, initially slated for end January then February 14 before it was postponed again to February 18.

The Cashgate scandal was uncovered last September shortly after the attempted assassination of then-budget director Paul Mphwiyo. More than 60 people, including government officials, civil servants and business persons, were arrested and charged with various offenses.

Meanwhile, Malawi donors who withheld aid due to the scandal are expected to meet in March to discuss whether to release aid funds.

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