Cashgate suspect Kazombo collapses in court as witness implicates Kabambe, Mwadiwa and Pondelani

High Court Judge Esme Chombo during a sitting at Lilongwe City Council Civic Centre on Monday had to temporarily suspend hearing of the K2.4 billion cashgate case involving former budget director Paul Mphwiyo and 18 others for about 40 minutes from 10am after third accused person Kazombo Mwale collapsed during the trial.

Mphwiyo outside the court.-Photo by Mphatso Nkhoma, Nyasa Times
Lawyer Powell Nkhutabasa after grilling the witness comes out of court
Lawyer for Mphwiyo, Shadreck Mhango coming out of court

Kazombo and Mphwiyo are among the 18 suspects charged with conspiracy to defraud government, holding property belonging to government, theft, money laundering, fraudulently issuing 24 cheques worth K2.4 billion, abuse of public office and usage of proceeds of crime.

He fell down soon after Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale had just finished re-examining fourth witness Francis Juwawo and had barely started cross-examining the fifth witness – Kondwani Davie Munthali when Kazombo Mwale fell from his seat.

His co-accused Mphwiyo came in quickly to lift him up with help of another suspect.

Apparently, Kazombo has a sugar problem and he was feeling dizy hence falling down.

After the court re-convened the top prosecutor  said the State and defence had agreed that Kazombo Mwale be allowed to leave for medical attention and the hearing proceed in his absence.

Mwale had to walk properly to his car and proceeded to the hospital.

During his testimony, Juwawo told the court that he was in the witness box  to testify on the increase in terms of budget withdraw and not on the charges that the accused persons are answering.

In his testimony, fifth witness Munthali, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning Projects officer in the monitoring section, who during the 2013 Cashgate period was Assistant Budget Officer in the same ministry, told the court that his role was to upload the approved funding of ministries in the Ifmis [Integrated Financial Management Information System].

He told the court that in 2013 from development fund ministry of tourism got allocation of K36 million in the month of July and in the month of August he uploaded K271, 349,553.

Munthali said his role ended on uploading the approved funds and that soon after injecting the funds, the responsible ministries starts to spend as they could access to their approved money

During cross examination with the defence lawyer Titus Mvalo SC for the first accused person, he was asked to tell the court if Mphwiyo had at anytime instructed him to load any extra funding and if he (Mphwiyo) had user rights from any ministry that he might have used to log in, the IFMIS system.

Munthali told the court that at no time he got any advice from Mphwiyo to put any extra funds and that Mphwiyo had no user rights for any ministry to log in IFMIS.

He also told the court that he has no incriminating evidence against Mphwiyo relating to the charges he is facing.

Taking his turn, lawyer for Kazombo Mwale, Powell Nkhutabasa asked Munthali to tell the court who was  authorizing the funding in July and August  2013 for him to upload in the IFMIS system.

Munthali said it was Secretary to the Treasury who authorized the figures.

He further told the court that a Mr. Pondelani, who was deputy Secretary to the Treasury, was only proposing the funding figures for the Secretary to Treasury, who then was Radson Mwadiwa, to approve.

Munthali  told the court that in July 2013 the Budget director was Dr Dalitso Kabambe (new Reserve Bank Governor) and Mphwiyo was the Budget director recommending the figures in August 2013

When he was asked to look at the suspects dock and point if the three (Kabambe, Pondelani and Mwadiwa) were there answering any case, Munthali said only Mphwiyo the then budget director is facing the Cashgate rap and the other three are spared.

He told the court that if the funds were not recommended (by budget director, Kabambe in July and Mphwiyo in August), proposed (by the deputy ST Mr. Pondelani) and authorized (by the ST Mr. Radson Mwadiwa) it couldn’t have been uploaded in IFMIS and later on paid or used by the ministries.

Munthali, however, told the court that he couldn’t know how the public funds were doctored in the financial system that might have led to plunder of public resources in government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) as he only came to testify on the figures that he uploaded in the IFMIS system.

The case continues Tuesday when the state is expected to parade its sixth witness.

The shooting of Mphwiyo outside the gate of his Area 43 house in Lilongwe on September 13 2013 led to revelations of the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill christened as ‘Cashgate’.

Former president Joyce Banda ordered an audit for the period between April and September 2013 which British forensic auditor, RSM (previously known as Baker Tilly), undertook and established that about K24 billion (about $36.4 million) was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.

In May this 2015, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciled between 2009 and December 31 2014.

Banda has been mentioned as a potential witness and accomplice in Cashgate by several people, including convicted businessperson-cum-politician Oswald Lutepo and Malawi Police recently announced it has a warrant of arrest for her.

In interviews with local and international media, the former president has maintained she ordered a forensic audit to establish the truth, risking her political career.

Banda has been living abroad since losing the May 20 Tripartite Elections.

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