UK auditors to face Malawi’s parliamentary committee over cashgate report

Officials of the British accountancy firm, Baker Tilly, which released an independent audit report into a systematic looting of public money- the cashgate scandal – will appear before he parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to be asked on their forensic auditing.

PAC deputy chairperson Daveson Nyadani said they have requested to meet the British auditors to quiz them on their work.

“We are interested to ask some information from the auditors. Malawians deserve to know the truth, nothing but the whole truth,” said Nyadani.

Mkwezalamba: Presented the report to parliament
Mkwezalamba: Presented the report to parliament

He however said their meeting is in doubt as the committee is yet to be funded. Nyadani said they have requested for funding, saying “he committee doesn’t meet without.”

PAC rejected the forensic audit report on the cashgate scandal by the British auditors with members of the committee describing it as “a cover up scheme”.

The committee told Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa that the report, which has no names and other details, was being rejected outright as the committee deemed the report incomplete.

The report doesn’t name any perpetrators but details have been passed to law-enforcement agencies including the Police.

Auditor General, Minister of Finance Maxwell Mkwezalamba and the British High Commission have refused to release the names with British High Commissioner Michael Nevin saying releasing the names now would be premature and may jeopardise the evidence trails.

Justice Minister Fahad Assani said there are expecting more arrests after the 68 that have already been made, including of former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara.

And director of information Chikumbutso Mtumodzi has said Malawians should wait for justice to take its course as releasing names of suspected perpetrators will be tantamount to finding them guilty before trial takes place.

Mtumodzi responding to calls from civil society organisations and ordinary citizens to release names of individuals and companies involved in the looting of public funds widely known as Capital Hill cashgate.

In the report, the auditors describes the scale of the theft and how it operated. Drawing on a sample of 501 suspicious transactions between April and September 2013, the auditors found that around 6.1 billion kwacha ($14.5m) had been paid out to 16 companies for services that had not been supplied.

Payments with no further documents accounted for a further 4 billion kwacha. The bean-counters also found that supply contracts had been inflated by 3.6 billion kwacha. All told, the state was defrauded of around $32m, almost 1% of Malawi’s annual GDP, in just six months.

Mkwezalamba officially handed over the report to Parliament through the Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda, but there are fears that once the House is dissolved on March 20, there will be no urgency to table the matter before the House.

Section 67 (5) of the Constitution empowers the president to call for Parliament in the event of ‘constitutional crisis or emergency has arisen which requires urgent legislation or consideration by the National Assembly and for that purpose alone.’

Leader of House Henry Phoya told the business committee early this month that Parliament would only meet once to discuss an important loan authorisation bill once the institution giving Malawi the loan meets on March 27.

Section 59 (1) of the Constitution empowers the president to call for Parliament but in consultation with the Speaker, except for once Parliament has been dissolved.

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