Malawi press verdict on cashgate audit report

Two Malawi’s daily newspapers on Monday said in their editorial comments that a forensic audit report produced by British forensic auditors have not produced “anything substantively new.”

The report by British auditing firm Baker Tilly Fraud indicated that theft have cost the Malawi Government about K13 billion (about $32.5m) in public funds, including K3.7 billion (about $9.2m) siphoned from the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture alone between April and September 2013.

The report does not contain the names of companies and individuals involved in the theft to avoid prejudicing legal proceedings currently in court. However, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Malawi Police Service (MPS) and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) have been given the full report to compare against ongoing investigations.

In its editorial comment headlined ‘This cashgate report is farce’, The Daily Times newspaper described the audit report as “useless.”

The paper said “perhaps the nation should have seen it coming” when authorities were changing goal posts the  time for making the report public was ripe weeks ago.

The paper says leaving out names of companies in the report is “as if the money leaked out of the system on its own.”

The Daily Times said they are “baffled” that even donors have “opted to stab Malawians on the back” by siding with government to conceal ‘cashgaters’ away from public eye.

Malawi’s flagship daily, The Nation in its editorial titled “Not much new in forensic report” said in the absence of specifics on who or which companies were involved in the fraud and mismanagement of public funds, it is difficult to say Malawians have heard anything substantively new.

The paper’s editorial said what the release of the report has done is “to confirm the existence of the malpractices, how they were done and the actual figures that were involved.”

The comment notes that the auditors have indicated that more work remains to be done to determine the exact extent of the plunder and the ultimate beneficiaries of the cashgate.

“What all this means at the end of the day is that we still have a long way to go before we have a full picture of what has been happening and who the real culprits could have been,” reads the editorial.

The paper pointed out that investigating such a complex network of fraudulent acts was never going to be easy given that culprits would do anything to throw spanners in the works.

“Coming up with impeccable evidence that would lead to successful prosecution of culprits was always going to take time. The point remains, though, that in the short term, there is a price to be paid,” concluded the editorial.

The report has recommended that more investigations are needed and these should be extended to international bank transfers.

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