Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe told BBC News that governance institutions such as the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) were imposed by World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying the system ineffectiveness should not be blamed on Malawi.
During the interview, BBC’s Ed Butler challenged Gondwe “Why has no minister been charged since Malawi’s Cashgate corruption scandal two years ago?”
Responded Gondwe: “Because we don’t know them.”
Apparently, opposition lawmakers claim a forensic audit report mentions seven ministers implicated in the Cashgate plunder of the national coffers.
Opposition PP legislators, led by Mzimba West MP Harry Mkandawire and Kamlepo Kalua, led calls for the names of all suspects to be made public.
In parliament, Mkandawire mentioned Agriculture Minister George Chaponda to have been named in the report.
Chaponda denied any involvement.
But BBC’s Ed Butler said to Gondwe that when “someone is under investigations I think it is reasonable to take him out of office.”
Gondwe said: “But they are not under investigations.”
The Finance Minister argued persuasively: “If they [7 rotten ministers] were actually identified and really proven that these people have been guilty, I can assure you the system will not spare them.”
Malawi President Peter Mutharika has also said he sent the chief secretary George Mkondiwa to the auditor general Stevenson Kamphasa to get the names of the cabinet ministers named in the report but came empty handed.
The BBC journalist quizzed Gondwe on reports that there is ‘political pressure ‘to Anti Corruption Bureau hence diminishing zeal for fraud prosecutions, which have severely dented the country’s reputation and cost it hundreds of millions of dollars in budget support funds.
He queried Gondwe why Malawi government is not keen on “independent oversight” of ACB.
Gondwe stumbled in his response: “Yes, I think that you have a point there, that the system is such that, and it’s not only in Malawi by the way, it’s true in Kenya, its true in Zambia, and its true everywhere.”
The Finance Minister added: “These institutions were started, by the way, through the influence of World Bank and IMF. They are the people who gave us the legislation.”
In Parliament government rejected a motion moved by Lilongwe South West MP Peter Chakhwantha that an amendment bill be drafted to change Section 5 (1) of the Corrupt Practices Act to provide for appointment of the ACB director and deputy by the Public Appointment Committee (PAC) not the President as it stands now but be based on merit and through an open recruitment process.
However, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu said ACB belongs to the Executive arm of government and removing the President’s powers to appoint a director would be a “travesty of the doctrine of separation [of power].”
Gondwe, nonetheless, told BBC that if anyone will be fingered in the report of corruption, will face the due process of the law.
“If a very clear evidence suggest that someone was indulging in corruption will not be spared,” said Gondwe.
Major frauds started under Bingu were of a different nature to the Cashgate type that was instituted during President Joyce Banda’s reign. Under Bingu they were of the more typical over-invoicing and over-pricing variety.
Preliminary audits of government finances between 2009 and 2014, carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and financed by the German government, indicate that at least K577 bn. ($807 mn.) could not be accounted for.
Later, the estimated loss was reduced to K236 bn. ($330 mn.), still a gigantic figure for such a small country, about one third of the government’s annual budget.
- Goodall Gondwe BBC interview can be viewed here.