Chikaonda adds a new twist to Malawi cashgate: Dates back to 2005

Members of the Malawi’s private sector met President Joyce Banda and some of her cabinet at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe on Monday afternoon over the ” Cashgate” scandal and said they were impressed with measures government has put in place to arrest the situation.

Speaking to journalists soon after the closed door talks,  Group Chief Executive Officer of conglomerate Press Corporation Limited,  Matthews Chikaonda said as private sector they are encouraged by some of the measures that government has out in place.

“We are encouraged with some of the measures that we have been told today. For example, back in 2005, limits on government cheques were removed and anyone could cash any amount of cheque but today that have told us that they are bringing back the limits, any cheque above K500,000, cannot be cashed on the counter, it will have to be deposited so that it can be traced,” said Chikaonda, a former Malawi minister of Finance and Economic Planning and Development.

He said the government team also assured the private sector that the cheques will be verified by different people other than those who have drawn it.

Cashgate started in 2005: Chikaonda talking to reporters after the consultative meeting at Kamuzu Palace

“We feel that government has taken right measures in addressing this problem so far and we are encouraged by this and we will monitor the progress,” said Chikaonda.

On the Operator of Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (Ifmis), Chikaonda said Malawians need to put their arguments across to donors who seem to be settled for the same operator of the syatem to continue.

“We need to state our case with the donors on Ifimis. There were no reconciliations, no audit trail, nothing. This issue affects us as Malawians and we need to sit down with donors and tell them our stand,” said Chikaonda.

He cautioned Malawians not to be in a hurry to see hurried results of the Cashgate investigations saying ” we should be patient because investigations have been done in the past but with no desired results.”

Chikaonda, who also served as governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, said the plunder, popularly known as Capital Hill cashgate, started when main expenditure ceilings were removed from expenditure control measures.

“What went wrong is that main expenditure ceilings were removed and there was an authorisation that all government cheques be honoured…and that was the turning point,” he said.

Chikaonda said before 2005, there was a spending limit for ministries and government departments which was put in their respective commercial banks beyond which the accounts were frozen.

He also faulted the way the Ifmis was operated since November 2005 when it was introduced.

“The operator was performing so many tasks and these are system operation, security, administration of the system and there was no audit trail. In a bank, a department that issues ATM [automated teller machine] cards is different from the department that issues pin code,” said Chikaonda.

Apart from President Banda, the government side had Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba, Economic Planning Minister Ralph Jooma, Trade and Industry Minister Sosten Gwengwe and Agriculture Minister James Munthali.

Reserve Bank Governor Charles Chuka, Malawi Revenue Authority Commissioner General John Bizwick and ACB Director Rezine  Mzikamanda also attended the meeting.

Some of the private sector representative included President of Economics Association of Malawi Edward Chilima, Standard Bank CEO Mashanda and Congoma Chairman Voice Mhone.

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