News / Africa

    Cashgate Scandal Probe Could Impact Malawi Elections

    May 2014 re-election for Malawi's president, Joyce Banda, shown on June 6, 2012, may be influenced by speed and results of government handling of Cashgate probe.
    May 2014 re-election for Malawi's president, Joyce Banda, shown on June 6, 2012, may be influenced by speed and results of government handling of Cashgate probe.
    Lameck Masina
    Public criticism is mounting in Malawi and some international donors are withholding development aid after the alleged theft of more than $250 million in public funds and an investigation that has dragged out for months.

    Some local observers believe the future of the administration of Malawi’s President, Joyce Banda, may hang in the balance when national elections are held in four months.

    The Malawi police uncovered what is now called the Cashgate scandal in September, several days after the attempted assassination of the country’s budget director, Paul Mphwiyo. Mphwiyo survived the shooting and is believed to have been targeted because of his tough stand against looting of public funds from government.

    Much of the looted money was found stashed in the cars boots and houses of some of more than 60 suspects. Police say an estimated $350,000 was found in the boot of a car belonging to a civil servant in the Office of President and Cabinet.

    Frozen accounts, party suspensions, property seized

    The investigation into the scam has led to the arrests of two executive members of the ruling party, Ralph Kasambala and Oswald Lutepo. Both have been suspended from the party.

    Lutepo was deputy director for recruitment and is accused of money laundering.

    Kasambala was director of legal services and is also accused of master-minding the attempted shooting of Mphwiyo. Both have been released from jail on bail.

    As part of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigation, the government has frozen 33 bank accounts belonging to some of the suspects and seized many properties suspected to have been acquired dubiously.

    Lameck Masina's Lilongwe interviews on Cashgate probe
    Lameck Masina's Lilongwe interviews on Cashgate probei
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X

    The government hired the UK-based forensic experts to audit government accounts.

    Investigators say the looting occurred because of a loophole in the government payment system known as Integrated Financial Information Management System. Government authorities say flaws in the payment system have been rectified.

    Banda counts on voters in the villages

    People’s Party deputy spokesperson Ken Msonda said there is no way the scandal would impact on the party’s chances of winning the elections. He says the party’s popularity in rural areas is overwhelming.

    “My brother, come what may, the writing is on the wall. People’s Party and Joyce Banda, we are making it, because the majority of voters are in the villages, not in town.

    “Those in town making noise don’t vote. When they come to voting they go to the lake and some of them go outside the country. And villagers are now able to see that things were tough. There was no fuel, no medicine in the hospital and they are now able see that things are going back.

    “These are the people who matter in Malawi, not those who dwell in towns.”

    Some are skeptical of government probe

    “Personally, I don’t expect good results from the investigations process for a simple reason that the investigation process is being supervised by the executive which is part of the suspect,” says Ernest Thindwa, a political science lecturer at the Chancellor College of the University of Malawi.

    “And people suspect that the executive is at the centre of the Cashgate scandal and indeed all indications are that the ruling party functionaries have been implicated.”

    Thindwa says it would have been better to ask an independent body to supervise the investigation.

    “But as it is, even if the investigators are doing a good job, the mere fact is that the executive - which is part of the suspect - is supervising.

    “Not many people will have confidence in the results, particularly if the results tend to be that most of the party functionaries that are being suspected, are getting away with it.”

    Thindwa says people seem to have lost trust in government and the Cashgate scandal is likely to influence voting because the delivery of public services has been affected.

    Business community not impressed with probe

    The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), a representative body of the business community, also charges that the government has performed an “unimpressive handling of the Cashgate scandal.”

    In a statement published in a local daily The Daily Times, MCCCI officials say they are disheartened that the scandal appears to slowly being swept under the carpet. They question whether government intends to protect some suspects. 

    Two weeks ago, the civil society organization known as the Grand Coalition launched a Black Monday Movement to mobilize a nationwide protest. They asked Malawians to dress in black every Monday to protest the failure of the investigation to meet its November deadline. There have been no reports that Malawians have protested in black.

    People’s Party's Ken Msonda says the party has not interfered in the Cashgate investigation.

    “As ruling party, we have not interfered in the ongoing investigations into the Cashgate scandal. Now, those who are saying the outcome is a little bit slow, they want to force us to interfere in the process of justice, which is not right in the democratic set-up.

    “We have allowed the ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau], the police and those involved in the corrupt practice act to work independently without interference from the powers that be.”

    International donors pull back on pledges

    Several international donors recently announced withholding of their portions of the $120-million quarterly aid funding to the government, pending the outcome of the investigations.

    Among those withholding development aid funds are the European Union, the United Kingdom and Norway. All are members of coalition called the Common Approach to Budgetary Support (CABS) whose donations comprise about 40 percent of Malawi’s national budget.

    CABS co-chair Sara Sanyahumbi says donors withheld funding because they had lost confidence in the government’s finance management system.

    “We have seen serious weaknesses which have enabled people to take money out of government system. While that is the case, you know the donors cannot responsibly continue to put money into government systems. So at the moment, while the investigations are going on we have delayed any funding which was planned to go into government system.”

    Malawi continues to receive development aid relief from other donors including the United States. U.S. officials said they won’t withhold their funding to Malawi because the U.S. funds are project-oriented amounts that are not channeled through government coffers which could fall prey to the looters.

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora