News / Africa

'Cashgate' Audit Report Delay Sparks Anger in Malawi

FILE - Malawi's president, Joyce Banda.
FILE - Malawi's president, Joyce Banda.
Lameck Masina
— A British forensic audit report on Malawi's "Cashgate" scandal has been delayed again - this time until March 18. Malawians are reacting to the delay with anger.
The report is expected to detail how more than $250 million of taxpayers’ money was looted from government coffers between April and September of last year in what is known as the Cashgate scandal.
This is the third announcement of a delay in three weeks. Government authorities assured Malawians earlier that the much-awaited report would come out January 29.
Stevenson Kamphasa, Malawi’s auditor general, told reporters on January 30 the delay was due to a lack of sufficient information.
“It is indeed true, we made a commitment that the forensic audit report would be ready by 31st January. But the fact is that we have faced a lot of challenges to obtain information that give sufficient evidence. As of now, the position is that we have agreed with the forensic team that the report will be ready on 14th [February],” said Kamphasa.
After those comments were made the report was delayed again. Authorities said the document was still undergoing “certain procedures that were being finalized.” 
A press statement released Tuesday by the National Audit Office said the latest delay is a result of the need to ensure that the audit report meets international standards.
John Kapito, executive director of the Consumers Association of Malawi, a consumer’s rights group, was among the many Malawians frustrated with the delay.
“We are not looking at very technical information as consumers. We just need basic information that has come out from the findings that we can be able to add up. So why can’t they just give us basic information that has come from their findings?” asked Kapito.
The press release claimed that another reason for the delay was to strip technical language from the report, making it clear to any reader without requiring any extra explanation.
Voice Mhone, a spokesperson of the Coalition of Malawi Civil Society Organizations, which has been pressing for the quick release of the report, rejected that excuse.
“In Malawi, we have professional bodies which can well interpret what it means to ordinary Malawians. We have Society of Accounts in Malawi; we have Economics Association of Malawi and others that can interpret. And we are suspecting that there is something fishy that is being done with this report because the summary of this report was already submitted to IMF,” said Mhone.

Mhone said the coalition will soon convene a meeting to decide its next move.
A spokesperson for the opposition Malawi Congress Party, Jessie Kabwila, said the delays are an attempt by some top government officials to walk free from the allegations of involvement in the scandal. 
She questioned the logic behind the further delay, after government authorities told reporters that the contents of the report will first be presented to parliament before it is made available to the general public.
“What is most worrying is that they are giving this report just two days before parliament is dissolved. This practically means that nothing can be done about the report. In other words, what they are telling us is that they are going to walk away with this and they want to go scot free over the money Malawians which they abused,” said Kabwila.
The Cashgate scandal was uncovered last September shortly after the attempted assassination of then-budget director Paul Mphwiyo. More than 60 people, including government officials, civil servants and business persons, were arrested and charged with various offenses.
Meanwhile, Malawi donors who withheld aid due to the scandal are expected to meet in March to discuss whether to release aid funds.

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