Unandi backs Malawi gov’t on cashgate audit report

A social and political commentator Unandi Banda is backing government’s move to keep away from Malawians the findings of draft report by the British forensic auditors on the cash gate scandal, saying the International Monitory Fund  (IMF) officials are the only appropriate people to have a look at the draft report this time around as they prepare to declare their position on the progress of the investigation on the scandal.

Speaking during Contemporary Issues program on Radio Islam, Banda said Malawians should not get worried for not having a look at the report.

“In Malawi we follow representative democracy. So those who represent us felt there was no need to give out the report to the members of the general public.  However there could the reason why they have done that.  But this doesn’t mean that they will not have access to the report,” said Banda.

Mpinganjira and Mkwezalamba briefing journalists

Mpinganjira and Mkwezalamba briefing journalists

“The report has gone to the IMF because of the meeting they are to hold on 15th January on the fate of Malawians. We could have lost the opportunity of receiving the funds should the report was not presented to them,” he added.

The IMF meeting will determine Malawi’s fate on the third and fourth trench of funding under the Fund’s Extended Credit Facility.

Banda’s remarks are in great contrast to the civil society organizations and other members of the general public who are exerting pressure on government to make the report available to the members of the general who are the most affected in the cash gate scandal.

But Information Minister Brown Mpinganjira and Finance Minister  Dr Maxwell Mkwezalamba told a news conference on Friday that the report was only meant for IMF’s use at its executive board meeting scheduled for mid next week.

“This report has not come through our hands as government; it is direct from the forensic auditors to the IMF. We do not want to be seen as if we are influencing anything and we wanted the IMF to have confidence that government did not doctor the summery at all,” said Mpinganjira.

This was in contrast to  Mkwezalamba who said his office received the draft report but he did not read it.

“The documentation was to be submitted to the fund and that must have been done through the Ministry of Finance. We just got the document and forward it to the fund. It was not meant for the public but it was meant for the IMF,” said  Mkwezalamba.

The Cashgate scandal broke in September 2013 following a failed assassination attempt on the government’s  former budget director, Paul Mphwiyo, who it is believed was about to reveal a corruption syndicate in government.

Police raids following the shooting found several high-level officials with wads of cash hidden in their homes and cars.

A number of government figures were arrested  and accused of exploiting a  loophole l in the government’s payment system – which was adopted in 2005 and known as the Integrated Financial Managing Information System (IFMIS) – to divert millions into their own pockets. According to some estimates, $250 million or more may have been stolen from government coffers in the Cashgate scandal.

Mkwezalamba, who replaced Ken Lipenga as Malawi’s finance minister following the Cashgate scandal, has pleaded for donors to be merciful and insisted that the loss of budget support will spell disaster for the country.

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