The public protector- Office of the Ombudsman – has launched an investigations over alleged lack of accountability, responsiveness and accessibility of services and funds under the K245 billion National Coronavirus (Covid-19) Response Plans and other interventions.
In a letter to Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events, addressed to Principal Secretary, Elvis Thodi, dated July 1 2020, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma demands a detailed account on how the money has been used.
The Ombudsman wants the information by July 17, 2020.
The probe comes against the background of suspicion and allegations of abuse of funds by people entrusted with implementation of the response plan.
Reads the Ombudsman’s letter: “The investigations will take a bottom-up approach, whereby the office [of the Ombudsman] will be analysing the funds received by each of the district councils, city councils and other public institutions for Covid-19.
“In that regards the office will be monitoring the Covid-19 activities planned by the public institution, the activities actually carried out, effectiveness of those activities and observing any legal, policy or best practice gaps in the implementation of the same.”
Department of Disaster Management Affairs spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula said they have received the letter and that they were already compiling the financial reports to account for the funds pumped in by the Malawi government, local private sector and development partners.
Former Minister of Information Mark Botomani told Parliament that money was not abused and challenged the new government to probe the funds.
“You can even bring CIA to come and investigate us there will be no wrongdoing,” he said .
The deposed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime had announced to increase loans under the Malawi Enterprise Development Fund that will help micro, small and medium scale businesses that have been seriously affected by the pandemic to 15 billion Malawi kwacha ($20.69 million) from 12 billion kwacha.
However, there have been reports that the Covid-19 funds have been abused and that top officials in the DPP have used it for wrongful self-enrichment.
Meanwhile, all 28 districts in Malawi now have confirmed coronavirus cases.
Epidemiologist Dr Titus Divala asked government to urgently institute measures to halt the further spread of the pandemic, whose figures continue soaring.
He said: “There is need to formulate a Covid-19 Bill, containing the key evidence-based approaches, finances, epidemic management structures up to community level, relationship to government departments, among others, and seek parliamentary mandate for the management of the pandemic.”
Malawi Health Equity Network executive director George Jobe also asked government to reinforce the Covid-19 guidelines set up by the Ministry of Health so that the country’s fight against the pandemic is effective.
On 20 March 2020, Covid-19 was declared a National Disaster in Malawi and on April 2 2020, the country registered its first three cases of coronavirus. This was followed by a lockdown announcement which was challenged in court.
The cumulative number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Malawi as of Friday 1 402, including 16 deaths and 317 recoveries. The total number of active cases is 1069.
Commentators have appealed to the new administration led by President Lazarus Chakwera to show political will and give policy direction in terms of fighting Covid-19.
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