Malawi’s foreign missions have not remitted K357 million in passport and visa fees collected in the 2016/17 financial year, with government conceding that there is no system of remitting the funds back home.
Treasury Instruction 5.7.3 of 2013 states that revenue collectors “shall collect and account for revenue and other public moneys falling within their control in accordance with instructions issued by the designated Receiver of Revenue”.
The revelations in the Auditor General’s report comes against a background of the Immigration Department expressing concern that foreign missions do not remit money for passports and visas issued and are not held to account on how the money is used at the embassies.
In the end, the Immigration Department is left to answer queries from the Auditor General as contained in the 2016/17 report for the year ended June 30 2017.
In the report, the Auditor General found that the Immigration Department issued visa books to embassies worth K300.9 million, but there were no records to show that the money collected was accounted for.
The visa books are issued to allow visitors to Malawi apply and be allowed to visit the country through embassies available in their region.
Reads the report: “No report of revenue collected and how it was remitted or used could be provided. In the process, it was established that the office did not account for revenue totalling K300 986 899.08.”
In the same financial year, Immigration Department issued embassies with 1 138 passports worth K57.6 million, but this could also not be accounted for.
Chief immigration officer Masauko Medi said since the money is not remitted to the Immigration Department, Treasury and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation should account for it.
He said: “We cannot say the money has been misappropriated, but it does not come to Immigration Department. The money is not used without Treasury approval.”
Medi said his department has completed procurement processes for an e-visa platform and is awaiting authorisation from the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) to sign the contract in United States dollars.
In a separate interview, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Principal Secretary Isaac Munlo confirmed that foreign missions do not remit the money to Immigration Department because of financial regulations in the countries they are located.
He said: “The money that is generated through passports and visas is deposited in the revenue accounts of the embassies and we cannot use that money without authorisation from Treasury.”
Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo said foreign missions are not supposed to spend the money. He, however, confirmed that in most cases the funds cannot be remitted to Malawi because exchange control restrictions.
He also confirmed that Treasury has on many occasions authorised embassies to spend the revenue collected from passports and visas, with the intention of deducting from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation budget.