Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa has threatened to resign as member of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 if President Lazarus Chakwera does not order a “forensic audit” to establish whether or not the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) and some government clusters abused K6.2 billion, which was released by government to help in the fight against the pandemic.
“This scandal is an unfortunate episode in the nation’s fight against Covid-19 because so much time is now being spent on trying to figure out what happened or who did what,” he has said.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, February 11, 2021 at Parliament Building in Lilongwe, Nankhumwa said by now, collective energies should have been spent on finding more creative and efficient ways of mobilizing resources to fight Covid-19.
“I demand that President Chakwera orders a comprehensive forensic audit of Dodma and all clusters of government and that a report of the findings be submitted to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament within 14 days for scrutiny and action. I believe that this would be the only and best path that the government can take to establish whether or not these public funds are being used for their intended purpose and deter future abuse of Covid-19 and other public funds,” said Nankhumwa.
He said culprits must be arrested and prosecuted and that there should be no sacred cows in arresting culprits and that no politics should be involved.
“If President Chakwera does not take heed of my proposition, it will be extremely difficult for me, personally, to continue serving in my current role as member of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19. If what I have suggested does not happen, I will have no choice but to resign as a member of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid -19 in order to save my integrity as Leader of the Opposition in Parliament,” he said.
Nankhumwa said he does not “wholly agree” with President Chakwera’s approach in attempting to get to the root of the scandal. The President ordered that Dodma and all government clusters must submit to our Taskforce their expenditure reports to the taskforce within 48 hours or face the music.
“The Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 was created solely to coordinate issues concerning the Covid-19 pandemic at presidential level and not necessarily to sit down as auditors or to work as jury for suspects. We have laid down legal frameworks within the government machinery to guide our operations. As an MP whose duty is to make laws, I must be the first one to respect all laws of this country, including the laws that govern how matters related to public finances are handled.
“When President Chakwera gave the nation a breakdown of how the K6.2 billion was used, he based it on the reports that he got from his technocrats and trusted lieutenants. But already, preliminary reports indicate that the situation on the ground is not as the President presented. Some figures on some budget lines may have been falsified or deliberately inflated for reasons that we can only speculate at this point.
“For example, others have pointed out that figures indicated to have gone for meeting allowances; for geographical mapping for isolation centres; and for disinfecting schools, among others, did not reflect best practices and the reality of what should have been done. This may imply that indeed there could have been wrongdoing regarding the management of the K6.2 billion, something which requires a deeper probe by financial management experts,” he noted.
Nankhumwa said the issue of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds is financial in nature, and matters related to public finance are best handled by finance experts at a professional level.
“The President should, therefore, have ordered the National Audit Office to audit DoDMA within a prescribed time frame rather than delegating such constitutional powers to an entity that has neither financial jurisdiction nor the competence to audit public funds.
“As Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, I do not want to be associated with deliberate disregard of the law and the utter contempt of the basic working framework of government. This is a serious matter that must be investigated thoroughly by professionals so that we get to the root of what happened,” he said.
Nankhumwa “reminded” President Chakwera that leadership is about understanding the plight of the people and rising to the occasion to show direction and that as leaders, “we cannot take a casual approach when dealing with matters surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, which is escalating and killing scores of Malawians at a dangerous rate”.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :