The National Audit Office (NAO) has defended the credibility of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funding investigative audit, saying all clusters and government departments, including the Malawi Defence Forces (MDF) and Malawi Police Service (MPS), were audited.
Acting Auditor General Rexie Chiluzi and NAO officials appeared yesterday before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament at Parliament Building in Lilongwe as the oversight committee started an inquiry into the findings of the audit report, which has seen over 50 people arrested for various abuses.
In his opening address, Chiluzi debriefed the committee on key findings of the report, its methodologies and challenges, and further explained why the military and police do not appear in the report.
He said: “The report falls under the ‘reporting by exception’ category; hence, only areas that had auditors queries were reported. The MDF and MPS were among those clusters which auditors did not find any queries.”
However, the explanation did not go down well with several committee members, including Thyolo Central member of Parliament (MP) Ben Phiri (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) who led the committee’s onslaught of questions, asking whether MDF was indeed audited or not.
But Chiluzi explained that auditors first visited MDF at the start of the audit and discovered that the K85 million allocated to them was intact, and MDF proved this with bank statements.
He added that while the audit was in progress, MDF wrote NAO that they had started using the funds and NAO duly followed up with an audit of the funds which were mostly used for allowances for soldiers who were safeguarding the Bingu National Stadium Covid-19 Isolation Centre.
“They knew the audit was already underway and made sure their records were clean,” said Chiluzi.
He said the police were also audited and their allocation was mostly used for procurement of personal protection equipment.
Phiri further asked Chiluzi to explain why the report did not name those who authorised the misprocurement of fumigation services contract in the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC).
He asked: “Who is the OPC official who authorised the procurement and ordered that the company should be given government fumigation materials?”
However, Chiluzi said the audit worked within its scope and that some of the questions will be responded to after various criminal investigating agencies have completed their investigations.
Former Finance minister, who is Chiradzulu South MP Joseph Mwanamvekha (DPP) still asked NAO to issue a report on why some clusters do not appear in the report.
The legislator also sought clarification on the assertion by Dodma officials who, in an earlier appearance before the committee, indicated that the department had provided clear guidelines to clusters and district councils on how to use the funds.
Chiluzi said its investigation clearly indicated that no such guidance was provided nor did the clusters and councils get funding after providing budget estimates.
The Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 was due to appear before the committee yesterday afternoon but failed to do so.
PAC chairperson Shadreck Namalomba said the task force leadership had indicated it was not ready for the meeting; hence, will appear later.
The chairperson, who mostly guided the deliberations but took a back seat in the questioning, said the committee was satisfied with the questions and responses solicited from the NAO team.
“The committee will now focus on the Presidential Task Force to explain its role in the matter,” he said.