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Cashgate in Mzimba

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Officials at Mzimba District Council cannot account for over K10 million from the Development Fund that has purportedly been spent to rehabilitate schools which a councillor claims do not exist anywhere, Malawi News can reveal.

Of the money, about K5 million, the report which we have seen says, was spent on transporting materials.

The authorities in question are Mzimba District Commissioner, Thomas Chirwa and Member of Parliament for the constituency (Mzimba Solola), Jacob Hara.

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The financial statement for Mbelwa District Council which Malawi News has seen give an account of various projects that were carried out in the area in 2016, some of which do not exist.

The financial records show that K5 million was used for transportation to ferry construction materials to about six community day secondary schools as follows: K200,000 for labour charges, K300,000 for construction materials for Kamwazeka school, and about K4.9 million for construction materials for various CDSSs.

The schools include Sadzu CDSS, Wateleka CDSS, Mtangatanga CDSS, Chasato CDSS and St Joseph school.

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But Councillor for Pelekezi Ward, Andrew Tembo, described most of the schools as ghost projects created to siphon public funds.

Tembo cited Wateleka CDSS and Kamwazeka as some of the schools that do not exist as indicated on the financial statement.

“The truth of the matter is that there is no school at Kamwazeka, I know this because I come from Pelekezi Ward where the alleged schools are said to exist. When I learned about these projects, I approached the District Education Network Chairperson and District Education Council members of Mbelwa District Council but the responses I got were not convincing. This is a lie and pure corruption,” Tembo fumed.

He said the money that was allegedly used for transportation is way too much for some of the schools indicated on the statement.

Tembo added that the matter was once brought up during a council meeting but both the DC and MP did not provide answers on the bloated figures and the non-existing schools.

“The money was taken from the Development Fund. You see, the people involved are the same people who make fake promises to people and when they are elected, issues of this nature happen. Our Member of Parliament is the one who writes those reports and you noticed that some figures could not be accounted for,’’ Tembo said.

Efforts to speak to both Chirwa and Hara proved futile as they could not pick up their mobile phones for two consecutive days, only to respond later through text messages.

“I have a meeting at Parliament. Write a message,” reads the message from Hara.

“I will call you later,” reads the message from Chirwa.

The councillor claims he reported the matter to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB).

“I visited the ACB in Mzuzu and shared the financial statement and the ACB came to the DC’s office and the issue is under investigation,” said Tembo, adding the bureau gave the DC a 14-day ultimatum to say something on the matter.

He claimed the DC called for an emergency meeting with the eleven MPs.

But Deputy Director General for the ACB Reyneck Matemba said the bureau is not aware of the issue.

“We do not have information regarding that issue right now, what I know is that the bureau is investigating Mzimba District Council over alleged misappropriation of LDF funds,” said Matemba.

Of late, there have been increased reports of cases of suspected corruption in councils, with the ACB arresting District Commissioner for Mwanza Jack Ngulube and other councillors from Luchenza municipality on suspicion of mismanagement of funds.

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