The Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (Pac) has warned district council officials that they will be taken to task if they pay themselves bloated allowances.
Pac members are meeting council officials from areas where expenditures were queried in the audit that probed the utilisation of K6.2 billion meant for Covid response.
Lilongwe, Salima, Balaka and Dedza council officials were among those that appeared before Pac members Wednesday.
It was, for instance, noted that directors from Salima District Council were getting K15,000 as sitting allowance during council committee meetings per sitting instead of K4,000 lunch allowance.
“They have paid back the money but that gesture alone— where they were paying themselves K15,000 instead of K4,000— cannot be tolerated,” Namalomba said
It was further discovered that council officials were paying themselves K15,000 instead of K4,000, using financial year budget allocations when they attend meetings.
They have been given three months to calculate all the allowances and pay back the money.
It was further discovered that, in Balaka District, some council officials paid themselves K50,000 instead of K4,000 as allowances for marking interview examinations.
Pac members learned that those involved paid back the money.
It further transpired that people who are not healthcare workers got allowances they did not deserve and that such people have paid back the money.
The total amount of money that has been paid back to the council is K879, 000, all of which was used as subsistence allowance at the time.
Namalomba, however, indicated that refunding abused funds was not enough, saying the government should discipline those involved.
“This is theft; so, there must be some criminality in it. The police must also look at the criminal aspect of this gesture,” he added.
Balaka acting District Commissioner Darwin Mngoli said everyone who got allowances was told to pay back and paid back within the specified time.
“It is true that some of the beneficiaries are not healthcare workers. The error came in because we just looked at the recruiting team, which made us make an error to include everybody [on the allowance list] who was taking part,” Mngoli said.
The committee is expected to continue meeting officials from other councils that have queries up to next week.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.