The main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has expressed serious reservations on the conduct of Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) in the way it has used or abused K6.2 billion Covid-19 response funds from Treasury, fearing this could just be a “microcosm” of a much larger rot happening in President Lazarus Chakwera administration regarding the use of funds meant for the fight against the pandemic.
DPP’s said in a statement issued by the party’s spokesperson on finance Joseph Mwanamvekha amid a public outcry that the funds have been abused by some public officers.
In a statement titled ‘Public Statement on the failure by Dodma to account for the K6.2 billion Covid-19’, DPP has released it in reaction to President Chakwera’s confession that some controlling officers have defied his earlier order to submit periodic expenditure reports on which they are using the Covid-19 funds.
In his statement, Mwanamvekha, who was minister of Finance until the court-sanction June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election, said: “It is reported that the officials only submitted an expenditure report of K595 million instead of K6.2 billion as demanded by the task-force. Out of this amount, it was also revealed that K15 million was unaccounted for.
“We are further informed that Dodma appealed for more time and was sent back by the committee to come back on February 9 with the full expenditure report on the K6.2 billion.”
Mwanamvekha added that what is equally unsettling are reports that despite the K580 million allocation for border patrols, some borders like Chitipa, Songwe and others are not being patrolled.
He says this is particularly sad now when the new variant of the virus is infecting more people in this country and taking lives of fellow Malawians at an unprecedented rate.
“Government through Dodma must realize that the money that it is playing poker with is taxpayer’s money and the least it can do is to be accountable down to every penny. Our small economy is already suffering under the weight of negative after-effects of the pandemic, and cannot afford such huge slippages.”
Mwanamvekha reminded government that that prudence, transparency and accountability in the way public finances are handled “is not only a critical ingredient for good governance, but it also enhances public trust and confidence not only on the part of the taxpayers but the development partners as well.”
DPP has since demanded an immediate audit on how Dodma used the K6.2 billion by the National Audit Office (NAO) and that once the audit report is finalised, it should be submitted within seven days to Parliament through the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Committee on Health.
He said the two committees of Parliament should also explore other ways of channelling Covid-19 funds towards the fight against the pandemic other than through the presidential decrees.
“If it is found that these funds have been stolen or misappropriated, the responsible officers must immediately be arrested and prosecuted under the laws of the country,” Mwanamvekha demands.
President Chakwera on Sunday warned that he will fire any controlling officer or cluster heads who fail to account for the K6.2 billion. He gave the respective ministries and clusters 48 hours to account for the funds to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako, has since said Chakwera’s 48-hour ultimatum on errant controlling officers demonstrates the government’s resolve to root out corruption and abuse of resources in the national battle against the pandemic.
“We appeal to all the citizens and stakeholders to exercise patience as their government works hard to establish what happened to the alleged abused funds.
“This is a very transparent and accountable government and I wish to assure every Malawian that we are not leaving any stone unturned in ensuring that justice is served on those found to have abused the funds. It is pleasing to note that DPP is demanding that the law should take its course, something which His Excellency President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera already assured the nation in his address last evening,” said the minister.
Treasury released K6.2 billionin August last year for the Covid-19 fight and last month pumped K17 billion.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :