Defence in the K2.4 billion Cashgate case involving former budget director Paul Mphwiyo and 18 others yesterday started cross-examining State witness Leonard Kalonga.
Titus Mvalo, who is lead counsel for the first accused Mphwiyo, was the first to cross-examine Kalonga immediately High Court Judge Esmie Chombo resumed hearing the case at Lilongwe City Council Civic Office.
Mvalo brought to the attention of the witness that Mphwiyo was in the United States (US) between August 18 and 28 2013, part of the period the alleged crime was committed.
The lawyer sought Kalonga’s justification for his claims that the first accused was involved in the preparation of payment vouchers and cheques.
The witness said he had no knowledge that Mphwiyo travelled to the US during that period.
“Since you are telling me now, maybe he was in the US,” he said, prompting Mvalo to tell the court that they will apply for the release of the accused’s passport to ascertain this.
Mvalo also took time asking the witness if he was conversant enough with government funding procedures.
He also quizzed Kalonga, who is currently awaiting sentencing in another Cashgate related case, on whether it was practical for the budget director to impose a vendors’ list on a ministry.
The question was in reaction to the witness’ earlier submission before the adjournment that Mphwiyo had recommended a number of contractors the Ministry of Tourism had to work with in the racket.
“What are the tasks of the budget director? Can somebody from outside impose a vendor on the list?” queried Mvalo.
Kalonga said he had no knowledge regarding the roles and responsibilities of the budget director.
“Maybe if I was in the Treasury I would. But I was in a totally different ministry. So, I wouldn’t know,” he replied.
On the imposition of a vendor on the list, Kalonga said the accounts section was better placed to answer the question “because they were the ones directly dealing with the vendors”.
Mvalo also took time to school Kalonga that any funding above K50 million requires the approval of a senior officer beyond the authority of Secretary to the Treasury (ST) and the minister.
At this point, the lawyer referred to documents which are bearing signatures of the ST.
He asked if by his testimony he implied that the ST was involved in the racket considering that the documents presented before the court have signatures appended to them.
But Kalonga refused to be dragged into making such an allegation in court.
“I wouldn’t say yes or no because we were at the receiving end. So, I wouldn’t know what was happening at the Treasury,” he said. n