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Malawi loses K622 million at Kenya Embassy

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The Malawi Government lost slightly over K622 million during the period the country’s embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, was closed between November 30, 2005, and December 30, 2012, through suspected fraud and collusion of public officers with some Kenyan firms.

A 2018 investigation by the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament whose report is expected to be presented in Parliament tomorrow reveals gross mismanagement of the property in Nairobi which includes the official residence of the ambassador and the offices.

Our calculations show that the actual figure is K622,651,010.13, out of which, according to the report, which has been signed by Pac Chairperson Mark Botomani, K217,251,300 was lost through alleged dubious bank withdrawals to pay for either work that was not done or that which was substandard.

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Upon closure of the embassy following the austerity measures that then president Bingu Wa Mutharika had put in place, according to the report, the official residence of the ambassador was rented out to a Kenyan firm Themis Investment which had rent and service arrears totalling about K113,920,849.05 as of December 2012.

One of the witnesses told a delegation of the Pac that had travelled to Nairobi for the probe in 2018 that other premises around the chancery were being used for weddings and a hair salon, whose proceeds never went to the government of Malawi.

A manufacturing company was also reportedly opened in the garage of the ambassador’s official residence but proceeds can also not be traced.

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“…the property managers did not furnish the committee with details of settlement of rental arrears, although they had alleged that the tenant had settled the same. Thus, they were incompetent to handle the assignment and they were fraudulent in the manner that they handled the matter at hand,” the report reads in part.

The committee has faulted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for allegedly flouting procurement procedures in the hiring of the property managers through single sourcing and failure to put an advert to the public through the media.

The managers, who are lawyers by profession, are said to have masterminded a payment of K217,251,300 to a construction company which was engaged to rehabilitate the property before any work was done.

The need to rehabilitate the official residence and the chancery had arisen in 2012 after then president Joyce Banda who succeeded Mutharika after his passing, directed that the embassy be reopened.

“The committee noted that the contractor raised invoices totalling to KSh4,134,203 for painting external walls…works quoted under invoices number 0653 and 0654 were actually not carried out…while work for the remaining invoices was shoddily done,” the report says.

The property managers were allegedly also charging exorbitant retainer fees of KSh170,000 a month, which translates to about K36 million for the two years that they were on contract with Malawi.

When we contacted him, Botomani said the report which we have cannot be authenticated at this point.

Meanwhile, Executive Director of the Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Willy Kambwandira has called on authorities to take red flags in the country’s foreign missions with seriousness.

“The revelations are not new; we have been reading reports about massive fraud and abuse of tax payers’ money in foreign missions and we have persistently been asking government and law enforcement agencies to take action,” Kambwandira said.

Led by then Pac chairperson Alekeni Menyani, the committee carried out the enquiry following failure by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address queries that were raised in an investigative audit report by the National Audit Office on the embassy.

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