While the issues about fraud at the Malawi Mission in Addis Ababa and other missions have not been fully resolved, the very controlling officer of the line Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation, Dalitso Kabambe, is ‘caught in the act’ authorizing illegal and unprocedural disbursement of funds at the Malawi Embassy in Berlin.
In two separate memos dated May 27 and May 31, 2016, the PS instructs the Malawi envoy to Berlin to use close to K13.5 million from the ‘Deposit Account’ for purposes that would have been funded by the Ministry directly or through the Treasury.
In the first memo, the PS is instructs the Malawi Mission in Berlin to pay for external travel and telephone allowances and the upgrading of air tickets for himself and Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, Francis Kasaila. It is not indicated where the two officials are travelling to and for what reason. Other officers involved are Suzgo Mandala and Loyce Merrick.
According to a Treasury official who opted for anonymity, the money that the PS authorized the Berlin Mission to spend is revenue that the Mission collects through various ways, including Visa fees. This money is meant for Account No.1, which can only be drawn with Treasury’s nod.
“The PS obviously flouted procedures by dipping his fingers into that account. Is the Ministry now funding itself without the approval of Treasury and Parliament? How much money has been abused or will continue to be abused since the Embassy keeps a lot of money considering the huge number of countries it is accredited to, which means high levels of revenue,” the official wondered.
Apart from Germany, the Berlin Embassy is also accredited, on a non-residential basis, to Armenia, Azerbaijan, Austria, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, The Holy See, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Montenegro, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine.
According to sources at the Embassy in Berlin, that Mission keeps tens of thousands of US Dollars in the Deposit Account because nationals from all these countries wishing to travel to Malawi have to obtain Visas from the Mission in Berlin.
Government could do better if it used this money to buy drugs for hospitals and improve service delivery rather than just paying air tickets and allowances for the Minister, the PS and a few Ministry officials, according to the Treasury official.
What has raised more eyebrows is the authorization in one of the letters that the Berlin Mission must pay for air tickets through a Rwanda-based travel agent in account at Bank De Kigali in Rwanda.
“Why are they buying tickets in Rwanda and not in Malawi? What’s so special with that travel agent? This smacks of fraud and corruption,” claimed the Treasury official.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation spokesperson, Rejoice Shumba, is quoted by The Nation newspaper as saying the PS acted within the law “as under the Budget Law and Appropriations Act, all resources appropriated by Parliament under Vote 260 are under his office’s custody”.