Turning the hands of time…
Your Excellency, President Mutharika:
1. I submit the attached report, which my office received from the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU).
2. The Reserve Bank of Malawi is working very closely on the issue raised in the report and several other cases.
3. We appreciate Your Excellency’s leadership in the fight against corruption and fraud. It is apparent that a lot of public resources are being misappropriated through such practices.
4. I wish to commend FIU for their increased efforts in combating financial sector crimes including money laundering, fraud and corruption.
5. I submit the report for Your Excellency’s information and future guidance, Sir. SIGNED, Dr. Perks M. Ligoya, GOVERNOR—MEMORANDUM TO HIS EXCELLENCY THE PRESIDENT (BINGU WA MUTHARIKA), 17TH FEBRUARY, 2012
The late President responded in his own handwriting: “I have noted the report and will act on it…SIGNED…19/02/2012”.
The late President never did!
Actually, “Your Excellency’s leadership” in the fight against corruption and fraud that Dr. Ligoya is talking about in paragraph 3 of this Confidential Memo never existed.
It was merely some ‘business language’ by Dr. Ligoya because, until Bingu wa Mutharika died ‘one day’ in April 2012, no single person had been arrested for fraud, corruption or theft of public resources. This was the extent to which the DPP government tolerated fraud, corruption and theft of public resources until a new administration came in.
The Peoples Party government – the administration that replaced the Bingu wa Mutharika regime in April 2012 – took action on allegations of fraud, corruption and theft of public resources. It instituted a forensic audit of all concerned government institutions and departments.
Through support from the United Kingdom’s (UK) Department for International Development (DFID), the PP administration engaged Baker Tilly Business Services Limited (Baker Tilly) to provide forensic and system security audit services following the discovery of irregularities by staff of the Accountant General during a routine examination of the Budget Exception Report.
Investigations by the Accountant General had also revealed that significant amounts of government money appeared to have been misappropriated. The incident is widely referred to in the Malawi media as the ‘Cashgate’ scandal. Following the forensic audit, a report of findings was presented to the relevant authorities, including the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), the Office of Director of Public Prosecution and the Police.
About 50 bank accounts suspected to have been involved in illegally transacting Government cheques were identified and frozen. Close to 200 people were arrested; some have been convicted; about 150 are still on trial. Indeed, the results of the actions taken by the PP administration to get to the root of the ‘Cashgate’ are being seen today. The ‘Cashgate’ investigations had already covered substantial ground.
Following the tripartite elections on May 20, 2014, a new DPP administration came into place to replace the PP administration. On assuming power, the new leader, President Peter Mutharika promised Malawians and the world his administration would not deviate from the path taken by the previous administration in tackling the ‘Cashgate’ scandal.
To many well-meaning Malawians, Mutharika’s appearance on the Presidential horizon seemed to have heralded a new political era of business unusual and a breath of fresh air. They could not be more wrong.
In no time at all, Mutharika started reshuffling and sacking the very officers at the core of the ‘Cashgate’ investigation and prosecution, including the DPP, the Director of the ACB, the Inspector General of Police and his Deputy, the Attorney General; virtually everybody. It does not take a rocket scientist to know that the actions by the new administration would affect the progress of the ‘Cashgate’ cases, somehow.
Now, Malawians are alarmed at fresh proclamations by the Head of State on ‘Cashgate’. Meeting Malawians living in the United States last Saturday, it is reported that the President “promised them he would net the big fish in the ‘Cashgate’ scandal. What ‘big fish’ is the President referring to? One is inclined to think that at the time President Mutharika was promising Malawians that he would “not deviate” on ‘Cashgate’, he was well aware that a prosecution rhythm had already been established and justice was surely and steadily taking its course.
Surely, reading from his public proclamations about “netting big fish”, only one thesis emerges—Mutharika is only bent on using the infamous looting at Capital Hill for his own political expediency.
It is clear the President is not interested in evidence, which is a crucial element to help prove wrongdoing beyond any reasonable doubt and secure convictions for any offence let alone those related to ‘Cashgate’. The President would not have fired key ‘Cashgate’ investigators and prosecutors if indeed he were looking for evidence to speed up investigations or catch the so-called ‘big fish’.
One is tempted to believe that if the talk about ‘big fish’ is real and not mere political rhetoric to misinform Malawians living in Diaspora, then President Mutharika is intent at using the ‘Cashgate’ scandal to victimize innocent Malawians for political reasons.
Therefore, President Mutharika will stop at nothing to concoct and manufacture evidence and charges against those he perceives as an obstacle to his political survival. Surely, it defeats common sense when the President, in a high-pitched tone, declares to take a different ‘Cashgate’ path, than the one that is already established and acceptable. Your guess is as good as mine!
*Hastings Kandoje is a Malawian social and political commentator. He writes exclusively for Nyasa Times in his own rightFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :