Mkwezalamba ‘frustrated’ working in Malawi cashgate mess: Tells BBC

Malawi’s Finance Minister, Maxwell Mkwezalamba has described as “very frustrating and every difficult time” working for a government riddled with corruption.

He was speaking in a BBC Focus on Africa interview from Brussels where he went to try to coax the European Union to reverse its decision of suspending aid to Malawi following the Cashgate scandal.

Mkwezalamba said it is every frustrating that the money that could have been spent in alleviating poverty has  been looted.

“What is happening in Malawi is indeed very frustrating and it is a very difficult [place to work] where  you have  a number of unpatriotic Malawians people who do not love their country siphoned out a lot of money from government coffers money that could have been used to spend on various programs to promote development in Malawi,”he told the BBC .

Mkwezalamba was however at pains to admit that the looting was happening under the watchful eyes of the governing People’s Party.

Mkwezalamba: Frustrated

“Well, the discovery happened during this government’s watch indeed, yes, but from what we see this appears to have been started some much earlier than this. It’s just like the discovery has just happened a couple of months ago,” he said.

He however admitted that the looting has brought about unbearable consequences to the government citing the suspension of donor aid which saw the freezing of $150million in budgetary support.

To move forward, he said “the government of President Joyce Banda” has undertaken a number of expenditure control measures just to make sure that the country is within resources that are available.

However, one of the control measurers, a travel restriction has been defied by President Joyce Banda who is on the road daily performing  functions that could well be carried by ministers, junior ministers or even District Commissioners.

Mkwezalamba nonetheless pointed out that “government has made serious commitments to ensuring that this problem is actually addressed with all the vigour that is required.”

He said: “ In fact what is happening now is that we do have a number of actions being undertaken in the areas of investigations to try to understand what actually happened and also looking a prosecution of some of the individuals as well as strengthen our own financial management systems.”

Responding to the question about what message is he imparting on donors that would make them reverse the decision, Mkwezalamba skirted around  and said the government is doing what it takes to pursue the matter professionally but it will be up to the donors to be convinced or not.

“As government we are doing our utmost to ensure that even those that have been arrested are being taken to book. We have carried out a number of reforms to ensure that this does not happen again. We are looking at strengthening a number of governance institutions so that indeed this should be a thing of the past. And hopefully the partners will be able to look at the progress that we are making in this regard”.

Mkwezalamba is in Brussels to negotiate the 11th European Development Fund (2014-2020) worth €560 million. The negotiations come at a time when most of Malawi’s development partners, including the EU, have suspended budgetary support in the wake of cashgate scandal.

The ‘cashgate’ unravelled in the wake of the unprecedented September 13 shooting of Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo as he drove into his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe has opened a Pandora box of the  mafia-like  state licenced plundering of resources by the top officials in Banda government.

Mkwezalamba’s interview with The world’s reputable media organisations comes amdist reports that  President Banda who has engaged a London-based public relations firm, Bell Pottinger for reputation management  in the wake of her administration’s high levels of corruption, fraud and massive looting of government resources is reported to have turned down an interview proposal by  BBC.

The Malawi leader was scared of probing questions from no-holds-barred Komla Dumor who took her to task in another television interview earlier this year.

President Joyce Banda on orders from Bell Pottinger has in recent weeks been giving face to face interviews to the international media including Al Jazeera, the Financial Times and The Telegraph among many others.

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