The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) loan scam has taken a new twist with the whistle-blower George Nnensa, claiming that Finance Minister Ken Lipenga is peddling further lies to the public as the money borrowed is not K15 billion but K30 billion.
Said Nnensa, who is Balaka South MP, in a telephone interview on Thursday: â€œI think the minister is still lying by giving the figure I gave of K15 billion [about $60 million]. I thought this time the minister should have been giving the correct figure and even accuse me that I did not get the right figure, but he just took my figure which I took from the blues.
â€œMy K15 billion is not the actual figure because I did not have the correct figures then. I was going to get the correct figures from MRA. That is what I got from some of the banks.â€
â€˜Itâ€™s more than K15 billionâ€™
Nnensa said former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika in his speech in Parliament said government had collected K120 billion (about $480 million), but the actual collection from MRA, according to the MP was K93 billion (about $372 million) leaving a gap of K27 billion (about $108 million).
â€œWhere did the difference come from? That is the figure they have to explain,â€ argued Nnensa.
Nnensa then wondered why Lipenga â€œwas further lying to the nationâ€ by giving the K15 billion figure which was orchestrated by Nnensa himself.
Lipenga said on Friday that he gave the figure of K15 billion and did not know that it had changed as claimed by Nnensa.
â€œI am hearing that for the first time. I am sure he will be able to give the figure himself. As for the other issue [CSOs demanding his resignation], I will not comment,â€ said Lipenga.
MRA board to meet JB first
MRA board met on Friday to discuss the matter and its chairperson Dr. Charles Mataya said they were still making further consultations. He said the board will have to meet President Joyce Banda first before making its report.
But Nnensa has asked the Malawi Law Society to summon MRA bosses and bank chief executives over the matter.
In a letter dated May 1 2012, Nnensa says: â€œI made a statement in Parliament on 16th March 2012 to the effect that the revised budget for 2012 was based on incorrect figures. This was because the statement by the then President indicated that the Government had over collected by K4.5 billion [about $18 million] between July and December 2011. However, the actual revenue figures from Malawi Revenue Authority indicated that they had under collected by over K27 billion.
â€œIn order to hide this deficit, MRA went ahead and borrowed money from five commercial banks (Malawi Savings Bank, NBS Bank, Standard Bank, National Bank of Malawi and Indebank at the end of December 2011. The money, plus interest, was returned in January 2012. The purpose of this activity was to show high tax collections as at 31st December 2011.â€
CSOs to stage protests
Meanwhile, civil society organisations (CSOs) have threatened to stage protests if Lipenga and MRA Commissioner General Lloyd Muhara do not resign or President Joyce Banda does not fire them.
The CSOs, which include Human Rights Consultative Committee, Human Rights Defenders Forum, Governance Forum and Civic and Political Space Platform accuse Lipenga of lying in Parliament to cover the face of the DPP.
The CSOs, in a press release dated May 10, have also dismissed Lipengaâ€™s excuse that he acted out of ignorance by giving the bloated figures in the House saying he should have â€œshame and remorse.â€
The CSOs said in a statement issued on Thursday: â€œWe reiterate that if our demands are not met, we will use our constitutional rights in organising peaceful protests to demand resignation and firing of the two.â€
The statement further reads: â€œNotwithstanding the preceding, we hold the two gentlemen accountable for the hardship that Malawians are going through because of such illegal act and blatant lies. It is expected that the positions that Dr Ken Lipenga and Mr. Lloyd Muhara, and other public positions demand the bearers to carry out themselves with the highest level integrity and public interest.
â€œAs such, it is advisable that the two gentlemen need not be retained in public positions as their conduct put the image of government into disrepute.â€
Lipenga admitted on Tuesday in Lilongwe that MRA borrowed K15 billion from the banks to paint a rosy picture of revenue collection for the zero-deficit budget and show that it was on track.
When opening Parliament in February, the late Mutharika said domestic revenue amounted to about K120 billion, against the midyear budget of about K115 billion.