UK government is keen to see the audit of how the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) in the Office of President and Cabinet has used K6.2 billion Covid-19 response funds from Treasury as Britain had given an additional £6 million (approx. MWK 5.3 Billion) for scaling up the country’s virus preparedness and response.
President Lazarus Chakwera said the K6.2 billion from Treasury has been used for six months he has been in power before releasing another K17 billion.
But UK released in June 2020 the funds, through UNICEF Malawi, to support Malawi government’s Covid-19 preparedness and response by among other things activities which Chakwera said were carried by different clusters.
This was confirmed by UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge, when he visited Malawi.
The funds from Britain were meant for among other things; expanding surveillance to 12 the districts; equipping two more Emergency Treatment Units (eight total); deploying 40 nurses, and frontline health workers in hard hit maternal and neonatal mortality districts to protect basic services; supporting trials of pharmaceuticals to treat ambulatory Covid-19 cases and avert hospitalisation; scaling up use of face-coverings to reduce contagion risk in public settings.
The K 5.3 Billion was also for completion of a new oxygen plant; and procuring vital equipment (700,000 gloves, 140 Oxygen Concentrators, 50,000 masks, and other medical supplies) to treat 2,500 patients
The funds were also budgeted for national awareness campaigns, reaching 2 million more people; Strengthen the Emergency Operation Centre of the Ministry of Health; support coordination in 12 more districts.
The K 5.3 Billion package is an addition to the £1.8m of UK aid that was provided earlier in March to support the setting up of the national testing lab, improve screening across nine districts, setting up of six emergency treatment units, training of 200 health workers, and procuring vital supplies as well as raising public awareness about the pandemic.
This was before the first Covid-19 cases were confirmed in Malawi.
However, there is little to show on the ground with public anger bottling up that funds both from the UK aid and the Treasury have been plundered by some public officers.
The public has been channelling their donations to the fundraising initiative for urgent Covid-19 relief led by Stanley Onjezani Kenani and Dr Thandi ‘Pulimuheya’ Hara to assist public hospitals with the much-needed oxygen tanks and flow meters.
They swiftly bought 40 oxygen cylinders and flow meters, worth over K17 million and distributed to the four central hospitals of Mzuzu, Kamuzu in Lilongwe, Zomba, and Queen Elisabeth in Blantyre.
And more resources are flowing in to assist other hospitals following their greater accountability.
President Chakwera declared a national state of disaster due to Covid-19 and asked the international community, local businesses, and common citizens to stand up and contribute money, materials, and ideas, towards the disaster fund, but Malawians are not trusting their government over allegations of abuse.
However, the speed at which Kenani and his colleagues have moved in has been impressive winning hearts of the corporate world and the citizenry.
President Chakwera had initially presented an expenditure breakdown from the K6.2 billion fund that, among other things, indicated allocations for meetings and other items critics felt were not a priority.
The opposition has claimed that Dodma only accounted for K595 million when the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 demanded an expenditure report on the K6.2 billion.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson on finance Joseph Mwanamvekha, who was minister of Finance until the court-sanction June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election, alleged that out of the K595 million, K15 million could not be accounted for and Dodma was sent back to return on February 9 with the full expenditure report.
Said Mwanamvekha: “What is equally unsettling are reports that despite the K580 million allocation for border patrols, some borders like Chitipa, Songwe and others are not being patrolled.
“Without being overly speculative, the conduct of Dodma could just be a microcosm of a much larger rot happening in government regarding the use of funds meant for the fight against Covid-19.”
Following widespread reports of Covid-19 funds abuses, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition also demanded that government should take immediate action on the matter.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :