A report of the Auditor General on the accounts of the Government of the Republic of Malawi for the Year ended 30th June 2019 has exposed continued embezzlement of money at the Malawi embassies where billions of kwacha were spent without supporting documents.
A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) which was submitted to the Office of the Speaker with a covering letter from Acting Auditor General Thomas Makiwa dated January 21 2020, shows that K35 billion has not been accounted for , showsthat in Malawi’s missions there is an entrenched culture of flouting public finance management systems which is resulting in mismanagement of funds.
Embassies are faulted for misallocation of voted funds, unaccounted for airtime, payment vouchers without supporting documents, failure to contribute towards utility bills, payment of school fees to non-deserving beneficiaries, failure to collect rentals on mission properties and failure to safeguard mission properties.
In 2016 the National Audit Office (NAO) deployed about 30 auditors to 10 of Malawi’s 19 foreign missions following allegations of fraud and maladministration of finances.
The report comes when most of the diplomats are working with recall letters others have clocked retirement age as the list of the recalled diplomats shows that some of them are attachés whose contracts expired as far back as 2009, but 10 years down the line, they are still at the embassies on government payroll.
The audit reveals that diplomats at Malawi Embassy in Washington DC, America, received an overpayment of rentals of ($29,000) or K21,297,243.30.
“An inspection of payment vouchers in respect of the rentals disclosed that diplomats were being paid rentals using the old rates instead of the revised ones,” the report says.
At the Malawi Mission in South Africa, some of the audit queries established include, under-deduction of utilities from members of staff amounting to K4.8 million, fuel worth K9.77 million not accounted for, procurement of carpets above threshold and K5.255 million unaccounted for stores.
At Malawi’s Mission in New York, the audit queried over-expenditure of personal emoluments and other recurrent transactions of K398, 952,445.88.
The report has also queried the New York office over the use of K85.2 million development funds for ORT activities without the authority of Treasury.
Among others, the report notes that Malawi has an accumulation of debt amounting to $707, 274 (K516,310,020) in Canada despite that Malawi closed an embassy in that country in 2004.
The report says Malawi owns two properties in Ottawa, Canada, which were part of the six properties used by the Malawi High Commission there, before the office was closed and the other four properties sold.
“It was noted that house number 240 on Coltrine Road and Rockcliffe (former official residence) has been vacant since the Mission was closed in 2004 and requires major maintainance for it to be rented out. Despite being vacant, the house incurs expences in form of taxes and property management fees.
“House number 1850 on Comborne Road was rented out at 4,000 Canadian Dollars ($3,080) or K2.2 million per month but it was also accumulating expenses in form of insurance, taxes and property management fees,” the report reads, adding that the properties are no longer classified as diplomatic properties since the closure of the embassy and are treated as commercial properties.
The report says looking at the expenses the properties are incurring and the income being generated, it is clear that the government is losing out on these investments.
Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament Ken Kandodo saying his committee will comment on the report.
Governance commengttaors have encouraged the Office of the Auditor General to stand firm in doing what the law requires it to do on behalf of all Malawians to ensure the country gets back what belongs to the people of Malawi through the ideals of fiscal prudence alongside the basics of walking the talk and in conformity with the Public Audit Act, the Public Procurement Act, among others.
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.
Last year government issued a notice expiry of contracts to dozens of its diplomatic envoys, including Edward Yakobe Sawerengera at the Embassy in United States, Washington DC.
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation ministry dispatched letters to Ambassador Sawerengera alongside top diplomats George Mkondiwa the Malawi High Commissioner in India, Ted Kalebe (Belgium) and Kena Mphonda (United Kingdom).
Other low-ranking diplomats have also been told their contracts expired and others have recall letters.
They included Mike Mwanyula (Brussels), Patrick Mphepo (Dheli), some staff at Washington DC and some staff at London mission.
There has been widespread criticism over Malawi’s diplomatic service which has mainly been appointed based on political affiliation to parties in government. Many have advocated for career diplomats to represent Malawi if the country is to benefit from its representation abroad through trade, among other things.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :