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Malawi Corruption Fight Snatches Most Senior Official to date

FILE - Malawi President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda addresses the 68th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Malawi’s Director of Public Prosecutions says his office has been given a blank check to go after public officials who accused of involvement in the so-called “cashgate” scandal in which millions of dollars have been discovered missing from public coffers.

Bruno Kalemba says President Joyce Banda’s government has the political will and commitment to defeat corruption.

His comments came after the government announced Thursday that it has arrested and charged a senior official suspected of embezzling $15 million.

Treza Namathanga Senzani, the principal secretary in the ministry of tourism, is accused of ordering payments to her company for services that never took place.

Kalemba said Senzani’s arrest shows that there are no sacred cows in the Banda government’s war on corruption.

“These investigations are wide ranging. We are going as far back as 2006. Her arrest simply shows that as the information is coming out, those that we are getting evidence against they are being arrested. She’s probably the most senior and what that shows is that no one is above the law. If there are others as senior as she is or even above, if their names come up, we are also going to carry out their arrests and investigate them,” he said.

Kalemba said Senzani and junior accounts assistant Geoffrey Sinoya were arrested after they were making “illegal payments” into the government payment system, taking advantage of the loopholes in the system.

He said the government is working hard to seal the loopholes by taking the system off line.

“The scheme was taking place through an integrated financial system which people had found a loophole in and they were taking advantages of those loopholes to siphon off money. It is something that we are working on the system. The people are on the ground trying to seal the loopholes. The system is currently off line. We are hoping that by the first of November the system will be back after those loopholes have been sealed,” Kalemba said.

Kalemba said the government’s payment system was first introduced in 2006 during the administration of late President Bingu wa Mutharika. But he said steps are being taken to correct the flaws in the system.

“From what we understand, the weaknesses were identified as early as 2010, and audit was carried out that time but wasn’t concluded. This wouldn’t have happened if that audit report had been concluded and the findings of implemented,” he said.

Revelation of the scandal prompted President Joyce Banda to dissolve her cabinet last week. Kalemba said President Joyce Banda’s government has the political will and commitment to defeat corruption.

“The investigation agencies in the country, the prosecution agencies in the country have been given a blank check to deal with this matter as far as we possibly can. We have in fact enlisted assistance from our donor partners to bring us expertise in areas where we are lacking,” Kalemba said.

He said the fight against corruption in Africa is not a lost cause, as some have suggested.

“It (corruption) is beatable. It is the commitment that is sometimes lacking. But in this particular case the commitment is there. The political commitment is there, so we do not anticipate that there will be any sacred cows in this investigation,” Kalemba said.
Butty interview with Kalemba
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