Malawi President Arthur Peter Mutharika has placed restrictions on both local and international travel for cabinet ministers and senior government officials. The goal is to save public funds strained by prevailing economic challenges, according to information minister Kondwani Nankhumwa.
“After examining [our] economic situation, [President Mutharika] has directed cabinet ministers [to] reduce their international travel to three to six times per year, and 8 [domestic] trips in a year,” said Nankhumwa.
It is unclear how long the directive will last. But, Nankhumwa said the president could reconsider the directive only when the economy improves.
“As of now, we are trying as a government as much as possible to come back to normal through locally available means,” he said.
Malawi depends on foreign aid for over 30 percent of its national budget.
Nankhumwa said the government inherited a near bankrupt economy after international donors withheld financial support until officials involved in stealing public funds are prosecuted. The financial scandal was nicknamed “Cashgate” during Joyce Banda’s presidency in 2014.
“The Malawi government lost a lot of money in billions of kwacha [millions of U.S. dollars] due to some irresponsible people working within the government circles who siphoned off the money…," Nankhumwa said. "The donors, the bilateral partners, suspended their support. This effectively means that we [are governing] without money…And that is the genesis of our problem.”
Nankhumwa said the administration will ensure those involved in the scandal are prosecuted under the full extent of the law.
Critics say the government has yet to expedite the prosecution of the officials accused of financial malfeasance. But, Nankhumwa said the government has demonstrated political will to weed out graft.
Regarding the Cashgate scandal, he said “we are leaving no stone unturned. Since we came into government we have now been able to successfully prosecute about six cases, of which government has won all the cases, and the journey continues.”
“We are working tirelessly so that we reach a point to say that we are satisfied. At this point no money can be siphoned out. It’s a system which ended up being corrupt because of the mindset of some individuals within government circles,” he added.
Civil society organizations have demanded the government strengthen state institutions to help fight corruption. Nankhumwa said the administration has increased financial and logistical support to the security agencies in the fight.
“We had made a considerable increase to law enforcement agencies like the Malawi Police Service, the Anti-Corruption Bureau and of course the judiciary for them not to relax when it comes to the need for the finances so that the rule of the law could be followed,” he said.