National Audit Office seeks patience on K92 billion probe


The National Audit Office (Nao) has asked Malawians to exercise patience as it continues with its forensic audit of the K92 billion feared to have been plundered from government coffers in the period spanning 2009 to March 2013.
According to the office, the audit, which was subcontracted to Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) International and is funded by the German Government, has so far consumed seven of the originally-planned 18 months.
Nao Public Relations Officer (PRO) Lawrence Chinkhunda said in a questionnaire response that the 11 months that are remaining for the financial probe to be concluded means there still is more time to carry out “a lot of work required and to gather more evidence”.
He said just like any other audit investigation, the K92 billion forensic audit is a rigorous evidence gathering process such that it is time consuming, costly and therefore, requires patience.
“We would like to assure the public that National Audit Office has a professional duty to the people of Malawi and all our stakeholders to diligently undertake our audits and report objectively on the outcome of those audits,” said Chinkhunda.
But analyst Nelson Mkandawire is of the view that the 18 months period is too long “for an audit that was supposed to show government’s commitment towards addressing the consequences of Cashgate”.
Mkandawire said in an interview that Malawi needs budgetary support especially for development in sectors like health and education, adding that if the truth regarding the K92 billion plunder is not known any time soon, Malawians may continue suffering.
“The effects of the plunder are as clear as we all see. As far as the [public sector] reforms are concerned, you cannot concentrate on the cashgate of the Joyce Banda administration and neglect the K92 billion cashgate and say you are doing something,” added Mkandawire.
He further cautioned government not to play hide-and-seek on the audit, arguing that strong commitment must be shown on the matter.
Mkandawire also claimed that he was one of those who pressed for the truth regarding the K92 billion suspected loot even before former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s death “but nothing happened”.
“And when [Joyce Banda] took over government, the matter somehow simmered perhaps because there was so much excitement. The reality of it is that unless the current administration tackles the K92 billion Cashgate, any fight against corruption may not mean much,” said Mkandawire.
While disclosing that so far, the audit is progressing well, Chinkhunda could not provide details regarding any findings, saying the particulars will only be provided for public consumption “using normal channels” once the audit is finalised.
He, however, disclosed that where necessary, NAO will provide to government an interim high level report focusing on very high risk management aspects.
“This report is meant for government to make serious decisions on the way forward for the remaining part of the investigations. As usual, this report, which still remains not for public information, is shared with the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC),” said Chinkhunda.
Different stakeholders including the German Government pressed the Peter Mutharika administration to probe the multibillion kwacha financial scandal.
But, despite the audit having already been rolled out, different observers including leader of opposition, Lazarus Chakwera, also recently bemoaned what they call slow progress on the ongoing Cashgate cases and apparent government’s reluctance to probe the K92 billion plunder.
During bilateral discussions between Malawi and Germany in November last year, the German delegation reiterated that further commitments for Malawi can only be secured if German can be sure that its money is being used for intended purposes and in the most effective way.
“After Cashgate, business as usual is not an option. We will need credible results in order for trust to be restored,” said head of the German delegation, Alois Schneider.

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