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Swaziland Workers Demand Inquiry Into Alleged Missing Public Funds

FILE - Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini of Swaziland addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 23, 2011.
FILE - Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini of Swaziland addresses the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 23, 2011.

The Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA) is threatening a "national shutdown" if Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini fails to ensure an independent investigation into alleged missing public funds from Treasury Department bank accounts.

This, after an independent forensic audit of the Accountant General's office conducted by Kobla Quashie Consultants showed that the government Treasury Department bank accounts have a $360 million shortfall.

Local media reported that auditors fear there may have been fraud, misappropriation and embezzlement of the funds. The independent Times of Swaziland newspaper quoted Quashie as saying, "It should be stated that the amounts noted as differences are so significant that it renders the annual treasury accounts submitted to Parliament and other government agencies inaccurate and misleading."

Protests ahead

TUCOSWA's Secretary General Vincent Ncongwane says workers are to meet soon to plan protests against the alleged financial malfeasance.

"We want that investigation so that the veracity of that would be determined,” Ncongwane said. “So that if indeed this money is missing, then we are saying that heads would have to roll. Because Swaziland cannot afford the losses of such amount and we need to know, if they are indeed lost, are not [due] to corruption.”

Calls to Percy Simelane, spokesman for the government in Mbabane, were not answered.

Civil society and banned political party groups, including the People's United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO), condemned the alleged financial malfeasance. They said it is unacceptable that the government has yet to demand answers or launch a thorough investigation. They also said Swazis and other public sector workers have the right to know how the administration plans to recoup the funds, as well as punish those implicated in the alleged embezzlement.

Swazis, Ncongwane said, are disappointed the administration has yet to issue a statement on the issue.

"There is widespread concern to the extent that a good number of organizations have given us the support that they are also supporting our call for an independent inquiry,” he said.

Pressure on international community

Critics have called on the international community to pressure the administration in Mbabane to account for the missing funds. They asked donors to withhold funds from the government until an investigation is completed.

"It would be unfortunate if it were to come to that," Ncongwane said. However, "the international community cannot afford to keep quiet because if they do so, then the government is not going to see how serious it is that we cannot have money to be thrown up just like that."

Ncongwane says workers are aware that the administration could use the police and other security agencies to intimidate them when they embark on nationwide demonstrations to protest the lack of action on the missing funds.

"We think that government will not act negligently to ban us,” he said. “Of course, they would try to intimidate, of course they would try to harass us as they normally do, but we are not going to back off because of that."