Malawi Parliament wants fresh prove into ‘Cashgate’

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Malawi National Assembly Parliament wants to summon again several stakeholders in the ongoing probe into how government lost billions of taxpayers’ money in what has come to be called Cashgate.

In an interview at the end of a three-week review of audit reports on Friday, the committee’s chairperson Alekeni Menyani said a review of the report by members of the previous PAC committee revealed that some of the stakeholders who appeared before the previous did not give convincing answers on the matter.

“Much as we agree and commend the work of the previous committee, the report lacks some information. We are still in the process of identifying which of these stakeholders should reappear before the committee for giving unconvincing answers or making contradictory statements,” Menyani said.

Menyani: Fresh probe
Menyani: Fresh probe

He said it would only be after getting additional information from these stakeholders that the report would be submitted to Parliament.

Some of the officials and institutions who testified to the porosity of the public finance management system and how funds could have been siphoned included the minister of Finance at the time, Ken Lipenga, officials from renowned banks, Reserve Bank of Malawi and former budget director Paul Mphwiyo.

A British firm Baker Tilly also conducted an audit on behalf of the National Audit Office which found that K13 billion was lost from government coffers, but the Baker Tilly report did not include names of individuals and companies involved in the scam.

Menyani said the committee feels that there was a need for the report to include the names.

According to Menyani, another contentious report the committee reviewed was the K92 billion audit findings into the Central Payment System covering the period 2009 and part of 2012.

The report has become controversial as it implied that Cashgate started in the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime and a total of K92 billion is suspected to have been swindled.

Menyani said the committee was convinced that the report contained audit queries which needed further investigations.

“The previous PAC report is very scanty. We will rework on the report, but the observation is that most of them are audit queries and a number of ministries have not been audited. This leaves a lot of room for speculation,” Menyani said.

He promised that the committee would work with the Auditor General to complete all outstanding audits.

So far the evidence in the country’s High Court has shown that businessperson Osward Lutepo and the country’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice Ralph Kasambara were working together to steal and launder money from government coffers.

Kasambara’s connection also brings on board private lawyer and his close associate Wapona Kita, and one of the accused in a separate case Pika Manondo.

Special state prosecutor of Cashgate cases Kamudoni Nyasulu said evidence the state has would show that money stolen from government was deposited into Lutepo’s bank account which would then be withdrawn by Lutepo and given to Manondo.

“Then Pika Manondo would take the money to Ralph Kasambara and other people. And we have evidence that some of the money from the fraudulent payments were also deposited into the accounts of Ralph and Arnolds Associates; thus, the accounts of Mr. Lutepo and Ralph and Arnolds were used to launder money defrauded from government,” said Nyasulu.

Other renowned figures also mentioned are People’s Party official Brown Mpinganjira and former Minister Henry Phoya.

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