- The Malawi government has lost close to a whopping kwacha 5 billion (euro 34 million, US$ 40 million) in the last five years due to high-level corrupt practices that involved top government and party officials, 'The Chronicle' has learnt. Malawi's anti-corruption agency is investigating a large number of cases involving high ranking government officials and opposition party members.
According to a document which details summary cases of persons and amounts, saved or lost, status, and remarks of 21 high level corruption cases, obtained by The Chronicle, the government lost close to kwacha 5 billion due to high degree corrupt practices since 1999.
Ironically, the document also implicates some cabinet ministers in the administration of Malawi's current President, President Bingu wa Mutharika, and officials in his newly started Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who have been dubbed by their critics as political refugees running from the long arm of the law.
Malawi's civil society has since bemoaned the revelation, saying it is a mockery to the current situation when the country is going begging for food relief to save its 5 million citizens whose lives are at stake due to the hovering hunger.
The document alleges that the government has not yet recovered kwacha 13 million in a case where DPP Secretary-General Joyce Banda is said to have been awarded a kwacha 26 million contract to construct a transit depot by ADMARC, the national food security agency, in 2002 when she was a Board Member. The document further reveals that Ms Banda allegedly pocketed kwacha 13 million in advances before commencement of the work.
"Investigations have so far established that Kambe Building Contractors, a company belonging to Mrs Joyce Banda was awarded a contract to construct a fence at Limbe Transit Depot. However, the circumstances surrounding the contract award are yet to be established," says the document on the status of the case.
When contacted for comment, Ms Banda, while confirming that indeed Kambe contractors belongs to her, she has never won a tender of kwacha 26 million. "Yes, Kambe belongs to me but I have never won a kwacha 26 million tender in my life." She added that was unaware of the corruption allegations against her.
In another case, DPP Second Deputy Vice-President Khumbo Kachali and some National Roads Authority (NRA) Board members are implicated in a scam where they are alleged to have bought a Toyota Prado VX from another then NRA Board member, at an inflated figure of kwacha 11,500,000 despite being an old vehicle. Other NRA Board members had been awarded contracts as well, according to the document.
It further says investigations are currently underway and that documents have been so far collected from NRA and are being analysed.
People's Progressive Movement (PPM) President Aleke Kadonaphani Banda (AKB), then Agriculture Minister, is implicated in a kwacha 127,210,770 scam on alleged corrupt practices involving fertilizer transactions with a smallholder fund. On the status of the case, the document says investigations were concluded in June 2003.
"Report submitted to government with recommendations to take administrative action against Hon. Aleke Banda and also prosecution under the penal code against Farmers World for obtaining goods by false pretences," reads the document. However, when contacted Aleke Banda said he was not aware of the case. "I have never heard of it," he said on the phone on Wednesday.
Malawi's ex-President, Bakili Muluzi is named in a closed case in the purchase of real estate in South Africa from Air Malawi at kwacha 2 million. In the saved column, the document showed government saved kwacha 4 million hence the closing of the case.
Currently, the graft busting body, the Malawian Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has also instituted a preliminary investigation into allegations that former President Muluzi received kwacha 100 million to pardon a corruption convict, Shabir Suleman, who was found guilty and imprisoned for bribing a Malawi High Court Judge. The document says investigations are still underway as the "Bureau" continues to get more details.
Apart from the kwacha 187 million scam involving Malawi's current Vice President Cassim Chilumpha and other officials, the document also implicates the Vice President in US$ 4 million (kwacha 500 million) corrupt practices when he was Finance Minister in the award of a Pre-Shipment Inspection (PSI) contract to Inter-tek, a contract that was eventually cancelled by former President Muluzi.
According to the document, investigations on the case concluded in 2000 and a report was submitted to thus-President Muluzi, but no action was taken.
The document also reveals that Malawi's government lost kwacha 2.9 billion in a case in which ADMARC management and some officials of the formerly ruling UDF party are alleged to have mismanaged and plundered the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR). Malawi is experiencing chronic food insecurity and depends on foreign food aid.
Some of the cases mentioned in the ACB document involve other government officials in parastatal, and other government institutions. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Ishmael Wadi could not be reached for comment on the ACB cases.
At a time of going to press the ACB had not yet responded our questionnaire on the issues prompting a personal visit to the ACB offices in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe. When 'The Chronicle' visited ACB's Director, Gustav Kaliwo, to verify the authenticity of the document and its contents, he then demanded that 'The Chronicle' reveals the source of the document, which 'The Chronicle' vehemently refused to do.
He said he was unable to make any comment on the document. "I am in an awkward position to comment on the issue because you are also refusing to disclose your source." He also added that because some of the cases relate to the time before he became Director, it was also difficult to make any comment.
"Then I don't know if we can cooperate. We are keeping this document here. We didn't ask you to bring it here," Mr Kaliwo said, before finally deciding to photocopy and return the produced document.
A recent Transparency International (TI) report says Malawi has slipped seven steps lower on the Transparency International 2005 corruption index.
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