As revelations are emerging on how some government officers mismanaged the K6.2 billion meant for Covid-19, Malawi News understands there was ‘free for all’ splashing of cheques, especially by the Ministry of Health (MoH).
The ministry was allegedly giving the money directly to some district councils without guidelines or instructions on how should use the funds.
According to officials from Karonga, Ntcheu and Mulanje district councils who spoke on strict condition of anonymity, their cheques from MoH were hand delivered by officers from the ministry.
Information in our possession shows that MoH officers hand delivered cheques worth K 4.5 million, K 2.5 million and K1 million to the three district councils respectively without instructions on the purpose of the funds.
At Mzimba District Council, Dodma officials pocketed Daily Substance Allowances (DSAs) for seven nights to erect tents but only spent one night.
Payment voucher number 240PV 8001428 shows that a team of nine Dodma officials (seven officials and two drivers) had pocketed the allowances to mount housing units at Mzimba but, according to our investigation, the team only spent a night.
At Zomba District Council, our investigations have uncovered that the District Commissioner, the Director of Health and Social services and other senior council officials were drawing full DSAs ranging K 60, 000 to K45, 000 for receiving returnees at Domasi College of Education – a distance of 10 Kilometres away from their duty station, allegedly on instruction from Dodma through phone calls.
While senior council officials at Zomba District council were drawing hefty allowances for working within their duty station, Malawi News has also uncovered that their neighbours at Zomba City Council were also on the loose as management resolved to share risk allowances to all employees after an employee had tested positive.
According to sources at Zomba City Council, senior officials including the Chief Executive pocketed K 40, 000, middle officers K 30, 000 while frontline workers walked away with K 10, 000 as risk allowances. The risk allowances were based on grades; which means that senior officers pocketed more than the frontline workers.
Malawi News understands that senior officials and Ward Councillors at Karonga district and Blantyre city councils were stopped from embarking on a series of Covid-19 learning visits to Nkhata-Bay and Salima district councils.
Former cabinet Ministers, under Democratic Progressive Party regime and some members of Parliament were also feasting on the Covid-19 funds in the name of field monitoring visits to councils to appreciate the level of Covid -19 preparedness and respond to issues arising in the councils.
Payment voucher number 240PV800117 shows that cabinet ministers, parliamentary committees on media and health shared Covid funds amounting to K 4.4 million in the month of April 2020 alone for the visits, some of which did not even take place.
The investigations have further exposed that there was no coordination among parliamentary committees as the Parliamentary Committee on Health and the Media Committee of Parliament embarked on parallel but similar activities.
Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira said the Covid pandemic has exposed a peephole of public financial management leakages in all government departments, including councils that was fuelled by inadvertent transfer of huge sums of money without proper plans and budgets.
“The revelations should act as a wake-up call to government to urgently put in place tight safeguards on emergency funds and on any other extra budgetary support. Imagine if this K 6.2 billion was prudently spent on critical covid-19 interventions the country would have not experienced the surge of losses that we are witnessing now. The exposure clearly shows that our taxes are not safe and government was releasing funds without plans,” he said.
When contacted, MoH spokesperson Joshua Malango insisted that all the money that was released to councils had a specific purpose.
“All the money that the ministry released was meant to be used for Covid-19 fight,” Malango said.
Meanwhile, The Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) has directed all councils and clusters; save for ministries of health and education, to stop spending and transfer back all their allocation of the K17.2 billion Covid funding.