Lazarus Chakwera acts
President Lazarus Chakwera Sunday cracked the whip on individuals suspected to have taken part in the looting of K6.2 billion meant for Covid response last year.
Malawi Police Service (MPS) has already joined the action, arresting 14 people mentioned in the National Audit Office forensic report as having taken a part in the looting.
The whip has also seen Labour Minister Ken Kandodo being dropped from Cabinet for allegedly borrowing Covid funds on a trip to South Africa, despite the fact that the minister paid back the money.
The Malawi leader has also directed Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zangazanga Chikhosi to interdict without pay public officers on whose direct watch the financial mismanagement occurred and to initiate disciplinary hearings within 14 days.
“I can assure all of you that there is no place on earth where these criminals will hide. The outrage and anguish you all feel from reading this audit report is not only righteous, but also one that I personally feel; so, I am counting on your continued vigilance as we continue to join hands in fighting against this criminal enterprise until it is defeated,” Chakwera said.
He emphasised that the government would ensure that there were no sacred cows in cracking the whip, adding that there would be more arrests.
“So, I want all the thieves hiding in the Civil Service to mark my words: If the finger of evidence points to you as one of the thieves who stole Covid money for saving lives while hundreds of our people were dying of Covid, you are going to prison,” Chakwera said.
On Kandodo, Chakwera said even though the minister paid back the K613,000 allowances he used for a foreign trip, the usage of the funds meant that the money was unavailable for its intended purpose when it was needed the most.
“And I cannot have in my Cabinet any individuals who either spend money budgeted for one thing on something else or do not ask tough questions to ensure that the money they are spending on something was budgeted for that purpose,” Chakwera said.
MPS Spokesperson James Kadadzera Sunday evening confirmed the arrest of 14 people in connection with the abuse of Covid funds.
The 14 include Administration Officer in the Office of the President and Cabinet Prince Mtelera, Commissioner in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services Pudenciana Makalamba, former Director of Information Mzati Nkolokosa and Pestchem 1B Director Martin Mainja.
He added that 10 others had been arrested in district councils such as Blantyre, Thyolo, Zomba, Machinga, Ntcheu, Dedza and Salima.
“Police detectives are on the ground and more arrests are eminent,” said Kadadzera in a press statement released yesterday.
He said the suspects would face theft by public servant and other charges.
Yesterday, Political Science Association President Joseph Chunga and General Secretary Makhumbo Munthali urged Chakwera to rise to the occasion by decisively dealing with the vice without shielding anyone.
Concurring, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira hailed Chakwera for acting decisively on the matter.