Former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has demanded an immediate audit of how the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) has used K6.2 billion Covid-19 response funds from Treasury amid a public outcry.
In a written statement yesterday, DPP spokesperson on finance Joseph Mwanamvekha said the opposition party wants the National Audit Office to conduct the audit and that a report on the same should be submitted to Parliament through the Public Accounts Committee.
Reads the statement in part: “If it is found that these funds have been stolen or misappropriated, the responsible officers must immediately be arrested and prosecuted under the laws of the country.
“The two committees of Parliament should also explore other ways of channelling Covid-19 funds towards the fight against the pandemic other than through the presidential decrees.”
The erstwhile governing party’s reaction comes against the background of speculation that the funds, which Treasury released in August last year for the Covid-19 fight, have been plundered by some public officers.
In his fifth National Address on the War on Covid-19 on Sunday night, President Lazarus Chakwera warned that he will fire any controlling officer or cluster heads who fail to account for the K6.2 billion. He gave the respective ministries and clusters 48 hours to account for the funds to the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
“Make no mistake: Any cluster that either fails to account for the money it received or is found to have abused their funds is a cluster in which heads will roll,” he said.
The President’s visibly tough stance on the K6.2 billion expenditure reports came against the background of speculation in the court of public opinion that the funds were abused by some public officers.
The speculation comes after the President had initially presented an expenditure breakdown that, among other things, indicated allocations for meetings and other items critics felt were not a priority.
In the past weeks, Dodma has refused to entertain requests from individual journalists and media houses, including Nation Publications Limited, demanding information using the Access to Information law on various expenditures.
In his statement, Mwanamvekha, who was minister of Finance until the court-sanction June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election, claimed that Dodma only accounted for K595 million when the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 demanded an expenditure report on the K6.2 billion.
He alleged that out of the K595 million, K15 million could not be accounted for and Dodma was sent back to return on February 9 with the full expenditure report.
Said Mwanamvekha: “What is equally unsettling are reports that despite the K580 million allocation for border patrols, some borders like Chitipa, Songwe and others are not being patrolled.
“Without being overly speculative, the conduct of Dodma could just be a microcosm of a much larger rot happening in government regarding the use of funds meant for the fight against Covid-19.”
Following widespread reports of the allegations, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition also demanded that government should take immediate action on the matter.