A renowned economist has expressed worry over government’s slowness on pouncing on those who plunder public financial resources, saying this gives encouraging signals to public purse thieves.
Ben Kalua, an economist at Chancellor College was commenting on reports that the government is reluctant to act on suspects of K1.3 billion Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom)scam.
An audit report show some senior managers at Escom abused K1.3 billion by buying items without the consent of both Escom’s Internal Procurement Committee (IPC) and the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP) as provided by the law.
“This money was abused, this might be one of the factors we have constant blackouts, this is a sign of inefficiency,” said Kalua.
Escom—notorious for constant power cuts and tariff hikes— had materials worth over K1.3 billion misprocured, according to the corporation’s internal audit report for the period between January and June 2016.
Kalua said this culture of impunity of stealing from public coffers will never come to an end as long as President Peter Mutharika continues to shield the seven cabinet ministers named in the so called K577 billion cashgate report – apparently Auditor General says the ‘grand corruption’ is about K236 billion and not K577.
“These parastatal chief executives know that the government shields thieves. Cabinet ministers cannot fight theft and corruption if they, themselves are involved,”Kalua said in an interview with a local radio station.
He therefore asked the government to stop the culture of shielding theft suspects if Malawi has to deal with the vice.
“We have these prolonged blackouts because money meant for electricity maintenance is going in peoples pockets,” he said.
Escom board chairperson Jean Mathanga could not immediately comment on the audit findings.
But Escom management said y it is aware that there were urgent procurements of critical materials for migrating customers on post-paid meters to prepaid meters and connecting new customers due to high demand while waiting for the delivery of bulk supplies which were already on order.
Ministry of Energy officials said they were investigating the matter.