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Malawi President Sacks COVID-19 Fund Heads over Alleged Abuse of Covid Funds

Malawi's newly elected President Lazarus Chakwera takes the oath of office in Lilongwe, Malawi, June 28, 2020.

In a televised address Sunday, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera said he was outraged with alleged abuse of $8 million (MK6.2 billion) he allocated in August for tackling the pandemic.

Malawi’s office of the ombudsman said more than half the money was spent on food, travel and accommodations for the members of various taskforces.

Chakwera said he had fired the heads of several entities responsible for managing COVID-19 funds after they failed to account for how the funds were used.

“All cluster heads, with the exception one, submitted reports with no backing documents and had to be told on-site to bring backing documents," Chakwera said. "Mind you, these are reports of money that was mostly spent last year, whose backing documents ought to have been maintained regularly, and yet cluster heads appeared before my taskforce showing clear signs of negligence.”

Chakwera also said announced the country will this week receive 100,000 additional AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines secured through the African Union for the protection of health workers.

He said this consignment for health workers is different from the 1.5 million doses arriving at the end of the month for the general population.

“They [health workers] put their lives at risk to save lives every day and they share in the devastation we feel from losing loved ones to this virus, including the 100 people who have died of COVID-19 this past week," Chakwera said. "May their souls rest in peace.”

Malawi has so far registered 29,035 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 952 deaths since the first three cases were reported in April of last year.

“Covid-19 death is tragic and to be mourned, and although it is God who ultimately has power over life and death, the deaths that are preventable are even more heartbreaking," Chakwera said. "We therefore have a moral and civic duty to do everything we can to ensure that no penny meant for saving lives is stolen, or abused, or wasted by anybody.”

The president said this is the reason he is pushing for accountability in the funds meant to fight the pandemic.