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Mombera University’s K2.5 billion probe delays

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Shadrec Namalomba

It appears everything, aside from expenditure, about the yet-to-be-constructed Mombera University moves at a very slow pace because since March 2020 when ACB first recommended that NAO should sanction an audit following queries, there has been little movement

Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is yet to commence investigations into the alleged fraudulent expenditure of K2.483 billion by government authorities on a non-existent Mombera University, now called Inkosi Mmbelwa University in Mzimba District, during 2019-20 financial year.

ACB Director Martha Chizuma has said the delay is because they are still waiting for National Audit Office (NAO) to provide them with a specific audit report on the queries which would inform the purported criminal proceedings.

Early 2020, the bureau was moved to institute criminal proceedings against implicated officers but two years later, nothing has happened as audit queries continue to arise against Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and Malawi Universities Development Programme (MUDP) on Mombera.

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“In March 2020, the bureau’s case review committee recommended to refer the matter to NAO for an audit and a letter was sent. We are yet to receive the audit report,” Chizuma said.

She said around mid-June, 2022, the bureau sent a letter of reminder to acting Auditor General (AG) Thomas Makiwa on the matter.

Spokesperson for NAO Rabson Kagwamminga last week confirmed the bureau’s request seeking the AG’s indulgence on the matter.

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According to Kagwamminga, Makiwa is committed to instituting an investigative audit into the expenditure in question which would expedite the ACB’s action.

“The AG concurred with the bureau’s observation that NAO is better placed to follow up on the matters in question. To this end, he undertakes to commence an investigative audit soonest possible to ascertain the propriety of the expenditure in question,” Kagwaminga said.

A 2019-20 audit report for government accounts also revealed that authorities at MUDP lied that they had spent about K231 million when they had actually spent slightly over K1.4 billion at the time of the audit.

Director of Administration at Ministry of Education James Shadreck told Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament on June 24, 2022 that the understatement was because the expenditure was processed outside the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis).

“The Accountant General captures the expenditure in the Ifmis using cash controls. The expenditure above was not captured in the system and as a result it could not be reflected in the 2019-20 financial statements,” reads the written response which Shadreck presented to the committee.

The explanations come at a time when there has been a flurry of arrests of accountants at the AG’s office who are suspected of various financial crimes.

The then chairperson of Pac Shadric Namalomba wondered why the authorities bypassed the Ifmis.

Just like other committees of Parliament, Pac has been reconstituted effective July 1, 2022 and the members will be choosing a new chairperson on Monday July 18, 2022.

“If outside Ifmis, it means it wasn’t budgeted for. Parliament never approved this expenditure for Mombera. They couldn’t respond convincingly and it’s a matter for further reporting meaning it us outstanding,” Namalomba said.

Commenting on the development, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willie Kambwandira said it shows lack of seriousness to decisively fight corruption and abuse of public funds.

“What does it take for the office of Auditor General to conduct an audit on the matter? Our concern is that continued delay in investigating these cases is what is overwhelming our courts. It is evident here that ACB is operating on borrowed mandate and have no real power,” he said.

Mombera University is among the flagship projects that President Lazarus Chakwera’s administration inherited from the previous government.

The project was in 2018 budgeted for K72 billion and is on the list of projects that government will implement using Treasury’s Development Bond.

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