The High Court judge, Esmie Chombo, has threatened to use relevant legal provisions in barring the media from covering Cashgate case involving former budget director Paul Mphwiyo if some media outlets continue misrepresenting facts about the case.
Chombo was reacting to the complaint from Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Mary Kachale that some online media outlets misrepresented what the fifth witness in the case, Kondwani Munthali, said in court.
Kachale rose at the very beginning of court sitting yesterday to express her disappointment with some online media reports that Munthali had implicated some senior Treasury officials of 2013 in his testimony.
She said as much as the state respects members of the media but misrepresentation of court proceedings is a very serious offence and putting words into the mouth of witnesses is worrisome.
“He [Munthali] is just a junior in the ministry and putting words that he did not utter into the mouth of the young man is just being unfair to him. Cheap tactics against the state are part of the risk but to the witness, that is bad. Decency and civility should be upheld,” the visibly angry Kachale told the court.
In response, Chombo said it is unfortunate that some media houses are thriving on sensationalism.
Chombo said misrepresentation of proceedings is not just a problem for the state but also a challenge to fair trial for accused persons.
She said the media as a core part of society are expected to act responsibly, with professionalism and code of ethics.
“In the event that such things continue, this court will not hesitate to use the Act. We feel the action will be taken to correct the situation, otherwise that is unacceptable,” Chombo said.
After the ruling, the state introduced the sixth witness in the case, budget officer in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Phillip Majiga.
Majiga, who works in the funding office of cash management section in the budget department, told the court that the Ifmis expenditure reports he compiled in the first two weeks of September 2013 showed over expenditure in the then Ministry of Tourism.
He said he was surprised as it was the first time that figures extracted from Ifmis were higher than approved budget and he reported the development to his immediate boss, the deputy budget director apart from doing the same to Chief Economist Daniel Jenya.
The ministry had spent over K5.5 billion in July, August and September 2013 instead of about K1.3 that was approved.
“I was overwhelmed and surprised,” Majiga told the court.
The case continues on Wednesday when the defence lawyers are expected to cross-examine Majiga.
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