Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Fahad Assani says Malawi Government will soon ask the courts trying suspects in the Capital Hill looting, widely known as cashgate, to hand out life sentences to those found guilty.
Speaking yesterday during the commemoration of the National Anti-Corruption Day at the Bingu International Conference Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe, Assani said that in 1970s when there was a similar revelation of theft of public funds at Capital Hill, government enacted a law to impose life imprisonment terms on public servants who were found guilty of stealing in excess of K80 000 (about $200).
In his address to an audience that included President Joyce Banda, donors’ representatives, private sector players and civil society representatives, Assani argued that based on the same law, those public servants who embezzled public funds amounting to between K2 000 (about $2) and K80 000 (about $200) were sentenced to between two and 14 years in jail.
He said: “We [government] are going to ask the courts to say whoever is found guilty should be imprisoned for life. Be lest assured that courts will impose life sentences to these people.”
In his speech, Assani named Joyce Banda as the first President of Malawi to genuinely lead government efforts in fighting the deep-rooted corruption in the country.
He said in 2011, Malawians heard about an assistant accountant who accumulated over K400 million in his personal account and despite investigations revealing a well-organised syndicate, the audit was quickly suppressed when the matter was brought to the attention of the then government.
Assani also expressed gratitude to Treasury for releasing K65 million to be used in the continuing investigations and prosecution of cases on the looting of government resources at Capital Hill.
On her part, the President described cashgate revelations as “a national tragedy” and condemned those involved in the looting of public funds.
Banda deplored the use of public resources for self-enrichment by public servants and reminded all civil servants that the positions they are holding are meant to serve ordinary Malawians at large.
Banda said government’s electronic payment system, the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis), was abused from 2005 when it was first installed, adding that the looting was first discovered in 2010 and investigations in the 2010 cases were for no apparent reason halted.
Earlier, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) director Rizine Mzikamanda said the 2014 commemorations, under the theme ‘Break the silence: Stop corruption’, give all Malawians an opportunity to reflect on our efforts to fight corruption and also evaluate the impact of corruption on our society.
Cashgate revelations came to light following the shooting on September 13 2013 of then Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo at the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe. That time, Chief Secretary to the Government Hawa Ndilowe described ‘cashgate’ as a breakthrough.