The Malawi Local Government Association (Malga) has urged the government to reinstate with immediate all the District Commissioners (DCs) interdicted in line with misappropriated K6.2 billion COVID-19 funds.
MALGA said Tuesday in a statement that the findings of an audit report into abuse of the MK6.2 billion Covid fund has “vindicated” the association’s earlier position that local councils either “had no audit queries” or “had smaller issues that did not necessarily require interdiction of any controlling officer”.
Malga, an umbrella body of all local governments in Malawi says they have been vindicated over claims that the alleged extensive plunder of Covid funds in local councils, was a “mere misconception and misrepresentation of facts.
Responding to the K6.2 billion audit report which was conducted by the National Audit Office, (NAO) the association in a media statement and co-signed by councillor Wild Ndipo and Hadrod Zeru Mkandawire, Malga’s president and acting executive director, respectively said:
“The report clearly indicate that it was not necessary to interdict all controlling officers from the local governments as 14 local councils had no audit queries and others have issues which did not necessary require interdiction of a controlling officer.”
To concretize its sentiments, Malga gives the example of Nsanje District Council, saying at the time of the interdictions, “the councils had not yet accessed Covid-19 funds.
Further reads the report: “The report has vindicated our earlier claim that the alleged extensive plunder of Covid funds in local councils was a mere misconception and misrepresentation of facts by some actors calculated at misleading the State President and the public.”
MALGA said they are basing their argument on the fact that of the K1.3 Billion that was transferred to the local councils, as deduced from the report that 95 percent was properly utilized which is contrary to what happened at Central Government level.
Malga then calls upon the central government to “immediately reinstate all controlling officers whose councils that have been cleared by the audit report”.
“All controlling officers and other staff whose councils have outstanding queries, before any further action is taken against them, they should be accorded an opportunity to be heard regarding the audit queries as this is a Constitutional right as provided for under section 43 of the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi,” further reads the statement.
At the height of widespread allegations of abuse of the MK6.2 billion, district commissioners and chief executive officers of 34 local councils were interdicted in order to pave the way for a “smooth conduct” of the audit which President Lazarus Chakwera had ordered.
The report has implicated dozens of public and private sector officers in apparent “feast” of the MK6.2 billion which was meant to finance various interventions in the national response against Covid-19.
After the audit report was released, President Chakwera ordered law enforcement agencies to deal with anyone who was involved in the abuse of the money.
The Malawi Police Service says it has so far arrested about 39 people in connection to the scandal.
Meanwhile, Malga has called upon MPs to “respect human rights and freedoms of suspects of its members” when effecting arrests or interrogating suspects”.
“Reports reaching us indicate violation of right to dignity and right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty perpetrated by police officers who arrested Director of Health Services of Salima District Council and when the police interrogating arrested suspects from Lilongwe City Council, respectively,” says MALGA in the statement.