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Millions vanish at Health

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About 60 people, including directors, have been ‘suspended’ at the Ministry of Health following misappropriation of millions of kwacha meant for an American-funded HIV project, The Daily Times can confirm.

Health Minister Peter Kumpalume confirmed the development but refused to give details, saying the issue is now under investigation and referred the specifics to his Principal Secretary.

“I can confirm that happened a few days ago and we have sent them on leave and called in the Office of the Auditor General to investigate – and it is not just senior officials, anyone affected – from director to driver has been suspended,” said Kumpalume in a phone interview on Thursday.

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Health Secretary, McPhail Magwira, said the 63 have not been suspended but rather sent on paid leave to allow the auditors to audit any accounts without being hindered.

“CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) wrote us explaining that they suspect that some people from the HIV project, which they fund, were getting allowances and not actually attending the meetings and visiting the field. They also suspected fuel abuse,” said Magwira.

Both Kumpalume and Magwira said they do not know how much money is suspected to have been misappropriated but Kumpalume simply said the money is in ‘millions.’

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Magwira said the most senior of those suspended are Directors of Human Resources, Finance and HIV and Aids plus two deputy chiefs in the Finance Department and added that the majority are from the Department of HIV and Aids in the ministry.

“The Ministry walks the talk on corruption – we will not tolerate misuse of public resources by anyone,” said Kumpalume.

CDC is a US federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services. Its website indicates that it aids various health related programmes in Malawi, including training nurses, HTC personnel, provision of ART related assistance among others.

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