Ombudsman Martha Chizuma has made directives and recommendations to be implemented by government following revelations that K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds were abused.
The report was released at a news conference in Lilongwe.
The directives and recommendations are contained in a report titled A Report on an Investigation into Allegations Concerning Lack of Transparency and Accountability in the Implementation of Malawi’s National COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan.
Chizuma makes the following observations:
1-The opening of separate account for receiving COVID-19 donations by the Ministry of Finance was unjustified and created unnecessary nightmare. Ministry of Finance should have simply played an oversight role concerning the funds in DoDMA account through the Secretary to the Treasury as provided for by law.
2-Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) acted illegally by departing from the conventional tools for price stability as provided for in the RBM Act (2018) to be able to make a MK6.2 billion donation towards the COVID-19 fight.
3-RBM irregularly categorized MK6.2 billion as a Corporate Social Responsibility donation and inappropriately channelled the funds through the Governor’s account instead of the designated Gift and Donations Account.
4-OPC irregularly equated the COVID-19 Response Task Force to a Commission of Inquiry in determining payable allowances.
5-Task Force Co-Chairperson omitted his duty to inform the public that the Task Force started receiving allowances.
6-Task Force Co-Chairperson omitted her duty to put the suspension of the Task Force allowances.
7-Payment of DSAs for more days than the actual days the officers would be genuinely required to work outside their normal duty stations was exploitative and irregular.
8-Procuring obviously price inflated goods and liquidating the same without questioning responsible individuals or without seeking any clarification was a serious omission of duty.
9-Purchasing lunch for officers who were paid full DSAs was irregular.
10-Inviting a colleague who has been paid DSAs at a hotel for meals that have been paid by public funds was highly exploitative.
11-Payment of meal allowance not corresponding with any applicable Government policy to an officer working on full board was irregular.
12Assigning a large number of officers for tasks which could ably be done by few officers was exploitative and irregular.
13-Using a questionable receipt to justify a MK459, 000 payout from public funds without evidence of delivered goods anywhere is akin to fraud.
She has also made the following directives and recommendations:
1-The Task Force Co-Chairpersons should put in writing the suspension of payment of allowances, including reasons behind the suspension and such communication should be made public to satisfy the public’s legitimate interest to know the settlements of the Task Force. (DIRECTIVE).
2-The OPC should develop separate policy guidelines of an allowances regime for taskforces such as the Presidential Taskforce o COVID-19 and the entitlements should be commensurate with the service to be provided and reasonable taking into account the economy of the country. (DIRECTIVE).
3-The Secretary to the Treasury should close the Covid Relief and Response Account because it is redundant. (DIRECTIVE).
4-DoDMA should publish using radio and newspaper all cash and noncash donations that they received from March to July 2020 and how they were disbursed and utilized. (DIRECTIVE).
5-All participants who were served lunch while they had been paid SDAs during the National Coordination Meeting held in Mponela from 9th to 11th July 2020 should refund the costs of the lunch. (DIRECTIVE).
6-The officer who invited another officer for meals using public funds should refund the costs of the meals and the money should be deposited into the Disaster Management Account. (DIRECTIVE).
7-DoDMA should discipline an officer who was responsible for procurement of Butex soap at MK995.00 and make sure that in future there are mechanisms to detect instances of bloated prices and responsible officers are held accountable. (DIRECTIVE).
8-An officer who was paid incidental allowances above his entitlement must refund the excess amount into DoDMA account. (DIRECTIVE).
9-The officer who last handled MK500, 000 meant for cleaning materials for Machinga DHO for reception of the returnees in the June 2020 should pay back the money. (DIRECTIVE).
10-The RBM should establish mechanisms for desisting from breaking its own Laws should a similar situation arise in future. (RECOMMENDATION).
11-Spending 79.8% of the total funding for the Cordination Cluster on allowances is a reflection of misplaced priorities. The OPC should comprehensively review the government allowances policies by making them more realistic, considerate to country’s economy and clearer to avoid abuses. (RECOMMENDATION).Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :