Malawi cabinet approved the sale of a luxury 14-seater presidential jet but never authorised barter trade, senior cabinet minister who Nyasa Times asked have disclosed.
Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba said the $15 million (about K6.3 billion) proceeds from the jet sale never went into government’s consolidated account and instead the Attorney General facilitated the transfer of the funds from Bohnox Enterprises, which bought the jet, to South African arms firm Paramount Group, Africa’s largest private defence firm, its mother company.
“Cabinet agreed with the decision to sale the jet but there was no talk of the plane being a=bartered,” said a cabinet minister (name shielded as he was speaking on condition of anonymity).
Another Minister collaborated: “We resolved at Cabinet to divide money for maize, drugs and military equipment but no barter trade.”
The cabinet sources said how the money was to come into Account Number One of Malawi government at the Reserve Bank of Malawi was left with Chief Secretary in the a Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), former Finance Minister Ken Lipenga, the then secretary to treasury Radson Mwadiwa, Attorney General Anthony Kamanga and the President.
Mkwezalamba told a news conference that jet was bartered with military equipment for United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions and that funds then were relocated to buy drugs and maize.
Fears had been raised that the jet sale proceeds may have been embezzled.
Mkwezalamba confirmed “no single kwacha came to Malawi.”
But government still owes Paramount Group $4 million in arrears after it subtracted $15 million from the sale of the jet.
Consumer rights activist John Kapito has since condemned the transaction of jet sale.
“We have demanded several times for government to release on the proceeds from the sale of the Presidential jet and Government throughout has issued out conflicting information on how the funds were receipted in Malawi, unfortunately the President failed in her Press briefing failed to inform us which account the funds were deposited into.
“Can Government tell us how the funds were receipted in Malawi and not how the funds were used ,we are mindful and aware that the President and her cabinet have no mandate to use public funds without the approval of Parliament,” Kapito told Nyasa Times on Thursday.
He added: “Listening to the President it seems that she received the money and decided to use the money using her cabinet which does not sense to all Malawians, it is our view that the Jet has not been sold and we are demanding its withdraw from where it is so that it is properly sold by the Malawi Government.”
With her administration under a ‘cashgate’ corruption scandal cloud, President Banda on Tuesday had declared: “It was me who said let’s sell the jet and the cabinet agreed three things to benefit Malawi… to buy maize, buy military equipment such as patrol boats and pay for peacekeeping mission in the DRC,” the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some of the “money was also used to buy medicine and fertiliser which was loaned to farmers”, she told reporters.
But according to the Finance Minister, no funds from the proceeds of the sale were allocated to the Farm Input Loan Programme (Filp).
The jet – Dassault Falcon 900 EX, formerly 7Q-ONE, but now registered as ZS-FCI after the ownership change to Bhonox Enterprise, -had been bought by Banda’s predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika who died from a heart attack in 2012.
When she took over office, Banda introduced a gamut of cost-cutting measures and uses commercial airlines to travel outside the country.
Recently, the Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace (CCJP) of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi called for the presidential jet sale puzzle to be solved by instituting a commission of inquiry.
CCJP national secretary Chris Chisoni said apart from setting up a commission of inquiry, citizens have an option of taking the matter to court since government has not been forthcoming to explain the whole transaction.
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