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National Aids Commission board meets on Beam funding

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First Lady Gertrude Mutharika
First Lady Gertrude Mutharika

The National Aids Commission (NAC) board did not sanction the disbursement of the K5 million funding to Beautify Malawi Trust (Beam) that belongs to First Lady Gertrude Mutharika and the K9 million it gave to cultural grouping Mulhakho wa Alhomwe, Malawi News can reveal.

The revelation is contained in minutes of a NAC Board extraordinary meeting held at Wamkulu Palace in Lilongwe on December 17, 2014.

The minutes, signed by board chairperson, Mara Kumbweza Banda, indicate that the meeting agreed to summon the suspended Executive Director for NAC Thomas Bisika for a disciplinary hearing over the matter.

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“Board acknowledged the impact emanating from the public response to the funding granted to the Beam Trust and Mulhakho wa Alhomwe. Board confirmed that the transactions were done without knowledge of the Board and hence should be tabled at the disciplinary hearing of the Executive Director,” reads the minutes of the meeting in part.

When contacted for comments, Kumbweza Banda refused to shed light on the meeting saying the document containing the minutes is a confidential only known by her personal assistant and the Chief Secretary to Government.

“I will not respond to this until you give me the name of the person who gave you those minutes,” she said.

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But during the meeting an Investigate Audit Report on Nac operations conducted by the National Audit Office (Nao) was also tabled and it was concluded that the findings, which have not yet been made public, were incomplete and inconclusive.

“As an example, no details of actual Heads of Department interviewed were given although reference has been made to such; reference to unauthorised use of vehicles made while documentary evidence shows such authorisation was granted. Among others, Board was of the view that in a number of areas the Auditors should have engaged the Executive Director and got his feedback on the issues prior to drawing the conclusions made,” the meeting observed.

The Board decided that a disciplinary hearing be constituted either by the Board or Committee of the Board to clear the issues and hear the Executive Director out.

“Board noted that the Auditors had extended their investigations to other areas which were not clearly specified in the original Terms of Reference,” the meeting also observed.

It has, however, noted the recommended actions made and would be adhere to such, including disciplinary hearing for the concerned parties.

The minutes also say the Board was concerned with the vacuum at the secretariat due to the continued extended leave of the Executive Director and the fact that all senior positions at Nac are being held in an acting capacity.

It agreed, according to the minutes, to recall Bisika from leave.

In conclusion, Board asked the Chairperson to seek an audience for the Board to meet with the Chief Secretary to discuss the Nac outstanding issues.

Apart from Kumbweza Banda, other members that attended the meeting included Reverend G. Kapuma, Senior Chief Malemia, Senior Chief Makwangwala, Professor John Uta and S.B Chikoti.

The other members present included Secretary for Health Chris Kang’ombe, Mr. Sandikonda representing Secretary Nutrition HIV/Aids and a Mr. Pangani who was representing Secretary Nutrition HIV /Aids.

When asked for comment on the findings that National Audit Office made after investigating Nac, Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa referred the matter to Nao spokesperson Thomas Chafunya who referred the matter back to Kamphasa.

Since the story broke in the media some months ago, some members of the public have been calling on Beam and Mulhako wa Alhomwe to return the money to Nac.

The matter reached fever pitch this week when civil society organisations (CSOs) led demonstrations in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu against what they called erosion of democratic governance in the DPP regime and the diversion of Nac Aids money to the First Lady’s Trust.

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