President Lazarus Chakwera warned that government will move to recover all the stolen public funds, interdict all public officers implicated in the thcontroversial K6.2 billion Covid-19 fund, whose audit has shown gross abuse, discipline them and then ban any business impilicated from any future government contracts.
Chakwera issued the sterrn warning during a televised national address from Mtunthama state residence in Lilongwe.
“I have decided to use independent and investigative audits to ensure that our pursuit of thieves is backed by evidence that will stand up in court. And now that the evidence related to the K6.2 billion is before us, I am taking action,” he said.
President Chakwera said police have started effecting arrests of individuals suspected of committing the crimes exposed by the audit report.
“This includes an arrest at the Office of the President and Cabinet. There are no sacred cows. In fact, as other individuals that the evidence points to are identified and tracked down, there will be more arrests,” said Chakwera.
He added: “So, I want all the thieves hiding in the civil service to mark my words: If the finger of evidence points to you as one of the thieves who stole Covid money for saving lives while hundreds of our people were dying of Covid, you are going to prison.
“On top of that, we will use the relevant laws to ensure that you pay back what you stole. Mubweza! [Pay back.}
These actions notwithstanding, Chakwera said, there are other actions that must be taken by other independent branches of government and independent governance institutions, and he assure dthem of his full support to carry out their mandates.
He pointed out that the Constitution places the mandate of arresting suspected criminals on law-enforcement agencies like the Malawi Police Service, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, and the Financial Intelligence Authority.
“For the first time in Malawi, these are working independently and are being funded adequately. As such, those of you running these institutions must stop letting the country down and do your jobs in bringing those implicated by this report to book, or else I will have you replaced.
“The Constitution places the mandate of trying and sentencing criminals on the Judiciary, but I think I speak for all Malawians when I say that we do not want these crimes to take years to adjudicate. I have therefore directed the Minister of Justice to engage the Chief Justice on the support the Judiciary needs to expedite the cases related to this K6.2 billion, as well as all open and past cases related to the theft of public resources,” said Chakwera.
He also said the Law empowers the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA) to enforce the government’s compliance with procurement laws and procedures.
“I therefore call on this institution to do its job with a sense of urgency, including ensuring that all companies named in this audit report for defrauding Malawians, as well as the individuals who direct those companies, are debarred from supplying goods, works, and services to government forthwith.”
The President said he tasked the Vice President Saulos chilima to form a Taskforce that will recommend radical changes to the structure of the entire civil service, as well as the entire system of allowances, employment contracts, and procurement in the public sector to root out corruption.
“Those recommendations are due for submission to my office in the next four weeks, after which we will take the next steps towards my goal of overhauling this broken and rotten system from top to bottom.”
Malawian professor of law at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Danwood Chirwa argued that Covid-19 funds were disbursed for no purpose than feeding patronage networks and as soft bribes to some connected government employees and elected and appointed officials.
He said the funds provided the first opportunity for plunder by this government, arguing, “only a small fraction of the funds was directed to hospitals and clinics for medical care”.
In quotes reports din the press, Chirwa decried: “It is most disturbing that such a thing has happened. It shows, first of all, that there is no system for controlling the use of government funds, and that senior government officials participate in the misuse. For all that has been spent and wasted, there’s absolutely nothing to show.
“This is why sending a clear message from the top that abuse of State funds will not be tolerated helps. If people get fired or held accountable by political leaders first and the government adequately supports the crime fighting agencies, then there’s a chance. ”
The audit report, among others, has recommended that those officers who took part in the malpractices, which resulted in the loss of funds, should pay back the money and that the government must ensure that all malpractices that are criminal in nature should be handed over to law enforcement agencies for further attention and action.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :