The Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has ordered the police to start criminal investigations against officials at the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) and Reserve Bank of
Malawi (RBM) over management of Covid-19 response funds. Malawi (RBM) over management
Newly appointed DPP Steven Kayuni’s order to Inspector General of Police George Kainja is a direct response to findings by the Office of the Ombudsman in an investigation into the implementation of the K276 billion Covid-19 National Response Plan. The probe uncovered a number of alleged abuses.
Specifically, the DPP wants police investigators and prosecutors to focus on the aspect of the Ombudsman’s report which
found, among others, that some officers at Dodma were negligent, reckless and incompetent.
Further, the DPP wants a probe into the manner in which the RBM Board wrongly donated K6 billion in the process and flouted internal procedures.
The Ombudsman’s probe established that some officers at Dodma misprocured goods, fraudulently inflated prices and colluded to defraud government. The Dodma officers also allegedly failed to account for money spent on supplies.
Reads Kayuni’s communication: “Sir, such conduct cannot go unchecked. Further, such conduct is an affront to the cherished values and aspirations of Malawians in accordance to the Constitution and Public Finance Management Act i.e. due account for the economy, right to health, efficiency, effectiveness and avoidance of pilferage and waste of the public resources pursuant to law.
“Any person who misuses or abuses such public funds needs to be punished and, where possible, proceeds of such criminality be confiscated. Covid-19 is still rearing its ugly head and Malawians are suffering from the relics of the said abuse.”
The DPP yesterday confirmed writing the letter to the police chief.
Findings of the Ombudsman’s probe, which covered the expenditure period between March and August 2020, indicated that 78 percent of the funds for Covid-19 response were utilised in paying allowances for civil servants.
In his letter, Kayuni wants the officials investigated on three main charges, namely abuse of office, fraud by using false pretence, theft by public servant and negligence by public officers in preserving
Reacting to the DPP’s move, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma yesterday said the development was the right step towards ensuring that those who abuse public funds are held accountable.
She said: “This is brilliant and something we have yearned for long. For us to effectively deal with fraud and abuse of public resources and the institutionalised impunity that goes with it, there is need for a good conspiracy of governance and law enforcement institutions.
“With the new zeal in the DPP’s office to work with us, I truly see light at the end of the tunnel in as far as the fight against abuse of public resources is concerned.”
The Human Rights Defenders Coal i t ion (HRDC), which earlier wrote the DPP requesting action on the matter, also welcomed the move yesterday with chairperson Gift Trapence, saying: “HRDC is happy the DPP’s office has moved for those who allegedly abused Covid-19 funds to be prosecuted. This is what Malawians are expecting. They want suspected corruption and abuse of funds cases to be concluded in good time.”
The DPP’s position comes against a background of revelations that some public officers are yet to account for the K6.2 billion Treasury disbursed to them last August for Covid-19 response