- Fires Minister Kandodo for Covid-19 funds abuse
- Warns there will be no sacred cows
President Lazarus Chakwera has dismissed Minister of Labour Ken Kandodo for abuse of Covid-19 funds, warning there will be no sacred cows in dealing with those implicated in the K6.2 billion investigative audit on Covid-19 Response Funds.
Speaking in a televised address from Mtunthama State residence in Lilongwe last evening, the President vowed that government will move to recover all the stolen public funds, interdict all public officers implicated, discipline them and ban any businesses implicated from any futuregovernment contracts.
He said: “As for the Minister of Labour, who was named by the audit report as having spent Covid funds amounting to K613 000 on his allowances for a foreign trip, I have dropped him from my Cabinet accordingly.
“Even though the minister has since returned the money, his usage of the funds means that the money was unavailable for its intended purpose when it was needed most. And I cannot have in my Cabinet any individuals who spend money budgeted for one thing on something else or do not ask tough questions to ensure that the money they are spending on something was budgeted for that purpose.”
According to the audit report, the minister alongside another senior technocrat from his ministry, used the Covid-19 funds for allowances when they travelled to South Africa last year with the President.
In an interview last night, Kandodo said he was “shocked” by the announcement and that there had been no warning from State House.
He said: “I am not ready for a comment. I am very honest. It’s a total shock. No. let’s talk tomorrow.”
Chakwera described anyone who steals or wastes public funds as a traitor, vowing his administration will fight them until they are defeated “no matter how long it takes”.
The President, who declared that there will be no sacred cows in his fight against corruption, announced that officials at the Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) were among suspects that were arrested by police on.
“There are no sacred cows. In fact, as other individuals that the evidence points to are identified and tracked down, there will be more arrests. On top of that, we will use the relevant laws to ensure you pay back what you stole,” he said.
In the speech, Chakwera said he had directed the Secretary to the President and Cabinet Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi, to interdict without pay those public officers on whose direct watch the financial mismanagement occurred.
“I have also directed him to ensure that those officers are referred to the relevant Service Commissions to either clear their names or be sanctioned and disciplined. Whether those public officers are senior or junior civil servants, I have directed him to see to it that disciplinary proceedings begin within 14 days.”
The President further warned heads of law-enforcement agencies like the Malawi Police Service, the Anti-Corruption Bureau, and the Financial Intelligence Authority saying “these institutions must stop letting the country down and do your jobs in bringing those implicated by this report to book, or else I will have you replaced”.
Meanwhile, Political Science Association general secretary Makhumbo Munthali described the President’s move as decisive.
He said: “That’s the decisiveness that Malawians were waiting for on the matter. The bold decision to fire minister of Labour Ken Kandodo will send a strong message to any potential corrupt politicians, senior public officials or any politically connected business tycoon that there will be no sacred cows.”
On his part, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira said the speech was reassuring but that all eyes will be on law enforcement agencies to make sure they do what is expected of them.
Findings of the investigative audit into the expenditure of K6.2 billion Covid-19 Response Funds exposed loopholes in public finance management that drained K720 million through procurement flaws, irregular allowances, dubious claims and poor planning.
Key findings of the audit Chakwera ordered the National Audit Office (NAO) to undertake on February 14 2021 amid public outcry over alleged mismanagement, among others, indicate that procurement flaws accounted for the highest cost at K493.9 million.