The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has said all Malawi’s foreign missions has been abusing visa fees and all audited embassies failed to account for them, therefore the committee has asked the new Tonse Alliance led government to act on errant diplomats.
In a report of PAC’s scrutiny of the Auditor General’s reports of 2017 and 2018 presented in Parliament on Wednesday, committee chairperson Shadreck Namalomba indicated that over K650 million was abused during the period under review when Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was governing the country.
“In Tanzania the whole visa fees went missing, vanishing in thin air. In South Africa a total of K31 million in respect of visa fees was never remitted [to Malawi].
“In Egypt K23 million was collected in respect of visa fee but was not accounted for. K158 million in India and K26 million in Japan were not properly accounted,” said Namalomba a DPP legislator for Mangochi South East.
He said abuses were also spotted in Malawi’s foreign mission such as Belgium where there was a self-authorisation of allowances to the tune of K12 million as well as a remittance of K18 million without corresponding deposit.
At the Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia, according to the audit report, an unspecified amount of funds was channelled into personal account.
Other abuses were recorded in Malawi’s missions in Germany and United Kingdom.
In UK, Namalomba citing the audit report revealed that an equivalent of K58 million purportedly meant for Kamuzu Palace – the official residence of the President in Lilongwe – was injected in the allocation of Malawi High Commission in London. Kamuzu Palace, like the other State Residences, is ably funded through the State Residences budget vote.
The money was withdrawn in London but was not accounted for.
“Mr First Deputy Speaker, Is this the country that we want?” said Namalomba expressing disappointment and therefore appealed to new administration to act on errant diplomats.
Namalomba bemoaned what he called “extensive abuse” at Malawi’s foreign mission, saying it appears there us a well coordinated syndicate siphoning public funds through the embassies.
“How can the whole government machinery fail to have proper mechanism of remitting for visa remittances,” he said in frustration as First Deputy Speaker asked backbenchers to give Namalomba water to cool him off.
Chairperson of the backbenchers, DPP’s vocal legislator Victor Musowa volunteered to give Namalomba a bottle of water as he continued to present the report.
Namalomba observed that foreign missions has become a fertile ground for financial malfeasance largely because the appointment of officers was based on political patronage and nepotism.
“We have infested our embassies with a malaise of incompetence by sending in these embassies our sons and daughters, our wives and husbands, our cousins and nieces,” he said in reference to what the DPP and immediate past president Peter Mutharika was doing.
“The new government should not make these mistakes,” he appealed.
Namalomba advised the new administration to ensure that recruitment if officers in foreign missions should be based on career diplomats and civil servants sent to foreign missions.
“Otherwise, the more we send politically-connected individuals, the more we allow fraud to continue,” he said.
PAC has since asked government to conduct functional review of the country’s foreign missions to have an appropriate organisation structure as well as tabling of the Foreign Services Bill to sanitise Foreign Service.
Reads the report: “Government should recall and sanction all diplomats who authorised the expenditures from visa accounts without seeking prior authority. This includes diplomats that authorised ineligible payments of rent, utilities and school fees, among others, contrary to standing regulations on conditions of service in foreign missions.”
Currently, Malawi has embassies in Brazil, United Kingdom, China, Egypt, Ethiopia (including African Union Commission), Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, United Nations, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :