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OPC refunds K112 million July 6 funds

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Richard Chimwendo Banda

By Deogratias Mmana:

The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) has refunded K112,719,699.57 that was deposited into Chief Secretary to the Government Account for this year’s Independence celebrations on July 6.

The actual amount that was deposited on July 2, 2021 into the Chief Secretary Account number 1970000056939 at FDH bank was K238,286,196.00 after the independence celebrations budget was trimmed from K243 million to K50 million.

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As Malawi News followed the celebrations’ funds, it transpired that the actual money that was used was K87 million and not K50 million which was previously communicated to the public.

In response, Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda who chair of the organizing committee of the independence celebration said the unused money would be returned to government’s Account Number One held at the Reserve Bank of Malawi.

Malawi News has established that the OPC has at last refunded K112,719,699.57 on August 13, 2021 to Account Number One through cheque number 5702.

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The money was brought on charge, meaning that the funds returned for not being used by a third party.

OPC’s Shema confirmed the refund.

“This is to advise that OPC made the transfer into Account Number One through RBM. You may wish to check and confirm with the Accountant General’s office,” said Shema.

Ministry of Finance spokesperson Williams Banda also confirmed that OPC has, at last refunded K112,719,699.57 to Account Number One at the Central Bank.

Banda said the deposit of the refund was made on August 13, 2021 through cheque number 5702.

Details we have seen show the deposit slip has a serial number 381497. The cheque wad deposited by OPC, Private Bag 301, LL3 through M. Mtengula.

Executive Director for Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Michael Kaiyatsa, said the returning of the money bears testimony to the power of the media and active civil society in combating abuse of public resources.

“Certainly, without the media exposing and following up this issue, the funds would have been diverted to other things and Malawians would not know anything about it,” he said.

Kaiyatsa added: “This is how hard-earned taxpayers’ money is lost in this country. The fact that the refund has happened after a media investigation and public outcry shows that transparency and accountability remain a serious issue in the government.

“We need a government that is transparent and accountable to Malawians whether the media are watching or not.”

Executive director for Centre for Research and Consultancy Milwad Tobias said it was wrong in the first place to spend that much money amid Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is good that the money has been refunded. It was wrong in the first place to plan independence celebrations costing that amount. We all know Covid-19 is still prevalent and the economy is in bad shape.

“The whole thing lacked the guidance of leadership. Government changed when the public reacted negatively to the initial plan. They have now refunded when media published a story. Where is the leadership in all this? Malawi is maturing. Citizen vigilance is bearing fruits. We must sustain this,” said Tobias.

This year’s celebrations were under the theme: “Building an inclusive, wealthy and self-reliant through Mind set Change and Servant Leadership.”

The nation celebrated the day by having a national service of worship in Lilongwe.

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