President Lazarus Chakwera has thrown his weight behind preliminary Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigations into alleged abuse of public funds to pay hotel bills for some guests whose mission in the country has remained hazy.
The President’s position, expressed through presidential press secretary Brian Banda, follows calls by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC and Youth and Society (YAS) for expedited investigations into the matter. and Youth and Society
Banda on Monday described reports of State Residences paying bills for the guests at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe as “fake news”, but yesterday he said the President’s attention had been drawn to allegations of abuse of funds at Plot Number One.
He said: “The President welcomes and supports this investigation by an independent law-enforcement agency as
the best way to separate facts from fiction on the basis of evidence so that Malawians can be assured of the truth from an objective perspective that is free of interference from interested parties.”
While Banda on Monday denied that State Residences paid the hotel bills, one of the directors of Crossroads Hotel, Sameer Sacranie, told yesterday’s The Nation that State Residences paid a cheque of K12.5 million through a cheque
to the hotel for the guests.
Ye s t e r d a y, HRDC described the conduct of State Residences on the matter as suspicious.
In an interview, HRDC national chairperson Gift Trapence said an explanation to taxpayers eager to know the truth would help on the matter.
He said: “State House should be honest and tell the nation the truth about this saga. Giving contradicting information is not only raising suspicions, but justifies
the allegation as being true.
“HRDC is, therefore, callin g up on the government to be open on the matter and should not lie to the very same voter that ushered them into power.”
During a media briefing in Lilongwe on Monday, ACB director Reyneck Matemba said the bureau would investigate the matter which he observed had generated public interest.
YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka said he hoped that the graft-busting body will fast-
track its investigations and keep the public updated on progress.
“We are comforted by the fact that the ACB has already instituted preliminary investigations into the matter. The conflicting information between State House and Crossroards Hotel on these allegations is raising more questions; hence, the need for the intervention of an independent authority
ACB,” he said.
The four foreign guests were booked at Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe in July under the name Miguel Elias of Chitundu Distributors based in Blantyre.
Sacranie sa id the guests, who include Elias and were still at the hotel on Monday, had booked suites worth $300 per night each for eight days before moving into rooms pegged at $90 per night for the rest of the days.
B a s e d o n r a t e s provided by Sacranie, our calculations show that if the visitors booked for eight days at $300 and $90 for 30 days, cumulatively the bill would be about K27 million ($35 500).
But Sacranie only confirmed a K12.5 million payment using a State Residences cheque. He said Miguel was settling the other bills in cash.
Reports The Nation could not independently verify suggest that the four are security experts allegedly in the country to train some officers from Malawi Defence Force (MDF), Malawi Police Service and National Intelligence Service.
Miguel is allegedly the consultant who brought the vi s i t o rs in the country for the purported assignment.
Both MDF and police had not responded to our questionnaires on the matter by press time.
The Nation Facebook search established that there is Miguel Andre Elias who appears to be a staunch supporter of Chakwera’s Malawi