BLANTYRE— Malawi's parliament
has wrapped a week of debate on a major government corruption scandal known as "Cashgate." Efforts are underway to stem the corruption, prosecute those responsible and recoup some the $10 million allegedly stolen by government officials.
The week’s deliberations were centered on responses to a speech that Vice President Khumbo Kachale delivered to parliament on Monday.
Kachale said corruption was largely happening through loopholes in a central payment system that Malawi's government has used since 2005, called the Integrated Finance Management Information System (IFIMS).
“The reviews made so far of the system, have revealed that huge sums of money have indeed siphoned out of government accounts using private companies and individuals with no contracts with government for provision of goods, service or work,” he said.
But opposition leaders objected to the vice president addressing parliament on the scandal, citing recent media reports that indicated he owns a procurement company which is linked to the scandal - an allegation which Kachale vehemently denied.
In their response to the speech, members of parliament pushed for speedy arrest of all those involved in the alleged manipulation of the system.
“The IFIMS will not misdirect on its own," said George Chaponda, is leader of the opposition Democratic Progress Party in parliament. "That’s why we are strongly and entirely agree to independent international forensic audit team that must hunt down all human elements behind the IFIMS. These must include accounts officers, IT officers, and all civil servants who are responsible for authorizing all checks and payments. The forensic audit must start now with an independent external forensic team reporting directly to parliament.”
Clement Chiwaya, chief whip for another opposition party, the United Democratic Front, asked government to provide maximum security to whistle blowers and to secure offices so evidence cannot be tampered with.
He said the recent burning of offices of the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi in Blantyre “smacks of political efforts to destroy evidence.”
He also said the government should bring forth a bill regulating political party financing.
“Mr. Speaker, sir, among other things the bill should regulate the amount of money an individual or a company can donate to the [political] party," he said. "The bill should also regulate and allow the disclosure of all names of party donors and amount donated to a particular political party. How do we know if those donating to the political parties are the people looting public coffers?”
His statement was a reference to the donation of 22 vehicles to the ruling People's Party by a suspect in the scandal, Oswald Lutepo, who was found with millions of dollars stashed in his car.
Lawmakers have also asked for confiscation of all property believed to have been acquired through stolen money.
Minister of Justice Fahad Assani told parliament that the government will make sure that those involved in the scandal face the law. More than ten people have been arrested so far.
“Mr. Speaker, sir, we are this week starting cases in the courts for the civil servants who were arrested with monies in their boots as well as houses and other investigations regarding the loses from 2006 will be dealt with and death with very strongly,” said Assani.
Speaker of National Assembly Henry Chumunthu Banda says parliament will make a decision on matters of financial mismanagement and misappropriation of funds on Tuesday next week. That will pave the way for the Public Accounts Committee to document all recommendations made by the members of parliament on the matter.