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Audit wants abusers refunds, prosecuted

Police, others to act on Covid funds culprits

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Capital Hill

The forensic audit report by the Auditor General (AG) on K6.2 billion meant for Covid response has recommended that officers faulted for malpractices that resulted in the loss of funds should pay back the money.

The report recommends that the government should make sure that individuals found in the wrong are referred to law enforcement agencies for further action.

Acting Auditor General Thomas Makiwa has also recommended that administrative remedies should be applied to all applicable cases.

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Among other things, the audit uncovered an avalanche of financial anomalies such as untraceable personal protective equipment (PPE), wasteful expenditures, untraceable payment vouchers and payment of allowances to ghost officers.

The audit identified cases of negligence and delays in payment of funds amounting to K850 million for the purchase of PPE by Central Medical Stores Trust (CMST) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) as some of indicators of resource abuse.

According to the audit report, it had to take about six months from September 2020 to March 21 for the funds to be released.

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The report says MoH got a lion’s share of the K6.2 billion with an allocation of K1.6 billion, of which K850 million, or 54 percent, was meant for the purchase of PPE.

The AG’s report says the purchase of PPE was to be managed by CMST.

The auditors say delays deprived Malawians of critical healthcare services required at that material time.

The report has also accused the Presidential Taskforce on Covid of failing in its duties by not following up and providing guidance on the funds that remained committed for six months at the MoH. The funds were set aside for PPE procurement.

“The Ministry of Health failed in its duties by not disclosing to the Presidential Task Force all details and challenges surrounding the usage of the K850 million towards the procurement of the PPE.

“Former Director of Finance of CMST, Mr Kaimvi, failed in his duties by sending an invoice to the Ministry of Health for payment but with wrong details and without attachments and justifiable basis,” the report says.

According to the report, disagreements between MoH and CMST officials started when the ministry wrote CMST on what PPEs needed to be procured on September 21 2020.

Among other things, the report says CMST, on December 22 2020 through Kaimvi, wrote Secretary for Health, indicating quantities to be supplied.

But MoH could not process the payment because there were no attachments to the invoice in form of delivery notes and goods received notes. In addition, quantities specified were not in line with quantities advised by the ministry.

“Finally, on March 10 2021, CMST sent a correct invoice for payment and the funds have finally been released by the Ministry of Health. This means it took 170 days to make a critical payment of the critical PPE,” the report says.

The Audit concluded that guidelines on Covid funds’ management and reporting were not provided, further observing that expenditure on allowances was abused by almost all clusters.

Presidential Taskforce on Covid co-Chairperson Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma was not immediately available for comment on lessons they have learned from the K6.2 billion audit.

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