Chakwera demands justice on Cashgate including DPP ‘sacred cows’

Leader of Opposition, Rev Dr Lazarous Chakwera on Thursday told Parliament the crackdown on corruption should not be selective, saying the Cashgate scandal started during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) era through to former Peoples Party (PP) and that full course of justice should take its course.

Chakwera was responding to President Peter Mutharika’s Tuesday’s opening State of the Nation address when he opened Parliament.

Mutharika vowed to crack down on corruption after a multi-million-dollar graft scandal led donors to suspend aid.

Chakwera: Demands full course of justice on cashgate from DPP eRA to PP
Chakwera: Demands full course of justice on cashgate from DPP eRA to PP

Audits found that billions of Malawi Kwacha in state funds had been looted by officials in last 9 years.

Mutharika promised to unveil the “truth” around Cashgate, saying “there will be no sacred cows … indeed, there will be no untouchables.”

In his maiden  response to state-of-the-nation address in parliament, Chakwera said President Mutharika’s speech lacked “detail” about how he will ensure that his intentions to have zero corruption in the use of public resources “does not turn out to be another broken promise in a 20-year history of broken promises to root out corruption.”

Chakwera told Parliament that during the campaign season, Mutharika’s newly appointed Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe admitted that the previous DPP-led government which the President and the Finance Minister were part of, there was corruption.

“The people deserve to hear what the President proposes to do to bring to justice all those in the previous People’s Party and Democratic Progressive Party administrations who acquired riches and property illegally at the expense of Malawian tax payers,” said Chakwera to loud cheers from opposition benches.

“Malawians are not just angry about Cash Gate, but about the gross mismanagement of public funds that has prevailed in government for the past decade. The truth is that Cash Gate under a PP-led government was a result of a porous financial management system that was put in place by a DPP-led government,” pointed out Chakwera, who is also president of largest opposition block the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

It is on record that Cashgate transactions involving a whopping K2.7 billion (about $6.4m) cashed through the Malawi Police Service [MPS] vote were uncovered as early as 2012.

When the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) noticed the strange bank transactions involving the police, late President Bingu wa Mutharika and law enforcement agencies were informed, according to documents.

In a memo to President Bingu wa Mutharika on 17th February 2012, former Reserve Bank (RBM) Governor Perks Ligoya reported of funds being siphoned through dubious transactions in the Ifmis system as exactly reported by auditors at the height of the Joyce Banda-time side of the saga.

Bingu wa Mutharika, in his own handwriting, responded to the memo on 19th February 2012 saying “I have noted the report and will act on it.”

Chakwera told Parliament: “We are therefore eager to hear the specifics of the measures the President wishes to put in place to ensure that neither the looting in the previous PP-led government nor the excesses of the DPP-led government before that go unpunished or ever happen again.”

He added: “We hope that in its efforts to remove the stench of corruption from the public sector, the DPP-led Government will lead by example by cleaning its own house first and bringing its own looters to book first. Corruption is more than a bad practice in our society.”

Former president Banda said an audit revealing K92 billion was abused during Bingu-era was submitted to Parliament together with an audit of K13 billion lost in Banda tenure.

“This will be a real test for the current government to ensure that the findings of that report are brought to the attention of the public and perpetrators are brought to book in line with the law,” the opposition leader said.

Chakwera, a former church cleric, said: “No President can stamp out corruption completely without first cutting his own arm, and this means exposing and prosecuting corrupt politicians in his own party as well as corrupt banks and business interests with strong links to and a long history of dealings with Government. The President’s ability to do this remains to be seen.”

The Leader of the Opposition said “it is our considered view that the President’s State of the Nation address had no shortage of good descriptions of how bad things are and not shortage of good intentions to make things better.

“However, neither a good diagnosis of a disease nor a good memory of what it felt like to be healthy is the same as having an effective cure, and it is that cure that still leaves a lot to be desired.”

According to Chakwera, it will be sometime before the President proposes a cure, as he told Parliament  that Malawians will have to wait another 100 days before he has a budget for the year.

But Mutharika said his government had drawn up “stringent measures aimed at preventing a recurrence” of Cashgate by strengthening public finance management systems.

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