Defence lawyers grill witness Juwawo in K2.4bn Cashgate: ‘I have no personal hatred against Mphwiyo’

Defence in the K2.4 billion Cashgate case involving former budget director Paul Mphwiyo and 18 others on Tuesday  pinned down fourth  State witness Francis Juwawo, former Economic Affairs director in the ministry of finance to explain his knowledge in the involvement of the accused  persons in the case.

Juwawo, who was  cross examined by  defence lawyer Titus Mvalo, who is lead counsel for the first accused Mphwiyo, was quizzed  to tell the court who was (is) controlling officer in the ministry of finance and he said  it was Secretary to Treasury (ST) who by that time it was Radson Mwadiwa

Mphwiyo (right) coming out of court with his lawyer Mvalo. -Photo by Mphatso Nkhoma, Nyasa Times

He told the court that ST is the one who has final say and approve any transactions inclusive payments, saying he/she has an oversight on any financial management.

Juwawo said the ST is in control of any decisions but also depends on an advice from heads of departments in order for him to make an informed decision.

Mvalo who took Juwawo to read charge by charge that the State is charging Mphwiyo and other officials asked him to tell the court if his testimony has evidence that the accused persons (Mphwiyo and others) committed the crimes.

The prosecution witness   repeatedly told the court that he don’t have any objective material evidence against Mphwiyo and his accomplices that they indeed did committed the offences.

Director of Public Prosecutions Mrs Mary Kachale had to rise on several occasions objecting to the line of questioning by lawyer Mvalo who she said was using technical words in the charges which the prosecution witness is not very familiar with.

But one of the defence lawyers, Ian Malera who is representing second accused person David Kandoje former Accountant General, rose to object to Kachale’s sentiments, arguing she must have briefed her witness on why he is in court to testify.

“My lady, one should know that if you’re coming to testify in court, you must be very familiar with what you’re testifying on and the charges. You don’t come to court without knowing what your witness will say and I believe the DPP had a chance to talk with her witness so let him answer these questions on the charges”, said Malera.

When asked by Mvalo on whether his testimony or he  has evidence on the charges of theft, money laundering and Conspiracy, Juwawo  told the court:  “No I don’t have evidence that Paul [Mphwiyo] and others did commit those charges , infact I wouldn’t know and don’t have any evidence too on money laundering charge .”

He told the court that for a payment to be made it is the Secretary to Treasury who approves but in some cases payments can be made without his approval.

But when he was quizzed to explain and give an example of that scenario Juwawo said there was a time the ST Mwadiwa was on holiday but still government was issuing payments.

When pressed to explain if Newby Kumwembe who was Principal Secretary for administration in the Ministry who at one point acted as ST during Mwadiwa’s holiday,  Juwawo again told the court that he doesn’t know and can’t remember Kumwembe at anytime acting as ST.

After being  shown a statement from Mwadiwa saying he left the position to Kumwembe , Juwawo changed tune, saying he might  have  forgotten since  it’s been over  four years since the incident happened.

Mvalo asked Juwawo if he has ever worked in the budget division in the ministry and understand the funding procedures.

He answered: “No I have never worked in the budget division and I don’t know the funding procedures.”

Reading Mwadiwa’s statement which said there was rise in domestic borrowing due to the carryover from 2012-2013 budgets and due to some urgent expenditure, Mvalo asked Juwawo if he was aware of this but he denied any knowledge.

“Do you know of any major devaluation of Kwacha in Malawi in 2012 and if this had implications on Reserve Bank of Malawi that led to the central bank making loses?” Mvalo asked Juwawo.

“Of the 49% devaluation , I wouldn’t know if it led to loss and I wouldn’t know if that losses was recapitalized by Malawi government amounting to K30 billion in the financial year of 2013-2014” he responded.

Mvalo then asked: “Do you know that there was pressure on part of government to purchase maize for Malawians in that year you’re referring to?”

Juwawo answered: “No, not to my knowledge, I don’t know if there was pressure on part of government to purchase maize as that had nothing to do with my department.”

When questioned if he has any hatred against Mphwiyo, Juwawo said he had no personal hatred against Mphwiyo.

“If I had any reason to hate or wish him bad could have been somewhere around 2013 when we were together in Washington DC in United States of America when I lost my wallet in his rented vehicle. I could have reported the matter to police but I believed him that he didn’t see it,” said Juwawo as the court attendees erupted into laughter to the story

He, however, confessed that he might have lost it at drinking joints where they were drinking together with Mphwiyo.

And when asked to describe Mphwiyo’s character and his professional conduct, Juwawo said the former budget director did not demonstrate seriousness in fiscal discipline and management.

Juwawo however disowned minutes from the 9th September 2013 meeting held at Reserve Bank of Malawi extracted from Mrs Mercy Kumbatira statement which contradicts his earlier testimony that said the meeting resolved that his office coordinate the reconciliation exercise.

But the minutes from the meeting chaired by Kumbatira shows that it was the office if the Accountant General that was tasked to do the reconciliation and report back the findings in the next meeting of 13th September 2013.

Mvalo asked the witness to avoid eye contacting with DPP Kachale before and after he responds to a question a thing didn’t please Kachale who argued she was busy writing notes and was not at any time trying to communicate with the witness in any way.

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