The Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) has joined many other quarters in condemning “central government’s action to delay the release” of an audit report into the alleged abuse of K6.2 billion meant to finance various interventions in the national response against the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
Malga–an umbrella body of all local governments in Malawi–has since called for an “immediate release” of the findings of the audit, saying “they have significant bearing on the image of local governments and their operations”.
The association’s sentiments come considering that district commissioners and chief executive officers of 34 local councils are some of the public servants that were interdicted in order to pave the way for “a smooth conduct” of the audit.
In an interview with Nyasa Times, Malga acting executive director, Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, said the association is “deeply concerned and surprised by the action taken by the central government to delay” the release of the report.
“The audit report contains findings that directly affect local government authorities that are our members. It should be noted that since the controlling officers of local governments were interdicted on 21st February 2021, 34 out of 35 local governments are operating without substantive controlling officers or official acting controlling officers which is not a conducive environment for smooth operations and substantive decision making at the councils secretariat level,” said Mkandawire.
He added that the controlling officers, who are currently on suspension, continue to be in suspense as regards to their fate and future.
“This is not only a physiological tortute but also constitute unfair labour practice. Therefore, unnecessary further delays in releasing the report are unacceptable.
“We wonder what is the motive or intention of the central government by hiding such a public document whose findings the entire nation is eagerly waiting for. We hope someone is not trying to cook findings to suit the convenience of some actors at the centre,” further said Mkandawire.
Widespread allegations of abuse of the K6.2 billion had prompted President Lazarus Chakwera to order the office of the Auditor General to investigate how the funds were used by various clusters in the Covid-19 national response.
The allegations, that exposed lack of adherence to strict financial management controls, also prompted Chakwera to direct the Secretary to the President and Cabinet to interdict all controlling officers who did not submit their expenditure reports.
The 30-days period the president gave for the audit to take place and its results released–already elapsed many days ago, sparking anger among some quarters including Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), governance experts, social commentators and concerned citizens.
In media reports published or aired on Sunday, Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako, revealed that the said report is now with the Secretary to the Treasury after the Auditor General submitted it for “action”.
Kazako reportedly said: “The report was finalised and the Auditor General submitted the final [copy] to the Secretary to the Treasury who requested for the audit. Malawians can thus be assured that the findings will be made available for them to appreciate the magnitude of the usage of K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds.”
The Sunday media reports also quoted HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence as having said that the coalition has given the government 21 days to release the audit report.
“It is true we are giving the government 21 days to release the audit report as regards to the K6.2 billion. If the government will not comply, HRDC will have no choice but just to mobilise Malawians and go into the streets. We will just announce the date of the demonstrations after the 21 days,” Trapence reportedly said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :