Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) on Friday gave President Lazarus Chakwera seven days to interdict controlling officers at the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), Capital Hill and in councils implicated in the abuse of K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds.
Addressing a press conference in Lilongwe on Friday, the HRDC members said Chakwera owes Malawians an explanation considering that the plunder of funds also happened at OPC.
In a statement HRDC read out at the event, the organisation’s national coordinator Luke Tembo said an audit report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the embattled Covid funds shows that OPC handpicked a private firm, Pest Chem 1B at a cost of K97 million to fumigate government buildings although the Lilongwe District Health Office (DHO) could have done the job at a much lower price.
But government spokesperson Gospel Kazako faulted HRDC for rushing to issue ultimatums, saying in the first place it is President Chakwera who ordered the audit to take place.
He said: “The ultimatum is misplaced because we are already doing a lot in ensuring we crush the culture of theft and abuse of public resources.
“It is this government that suspended all senior government officials that were suspected to have either participated or were involved in the abuse or tolerated the abuse to take place under their watch. We are already doing the right things, the major one being the presidential directive to have the K6.2 Billion audit done.
“This government will not protect anybody. We are determined to deal with this negative habit. We will break down any resistance.”
Among other demands, HRDC wants the interdiction of all controlling officers implicated in the abuse within seven days as well an overhaul of the Civil Service to deal with civil servants who have been looting funds over the years.
Tembo said law enforcement agencies such as the Malawi Police Service and the Office of the Director of Public Officers Declarations must investigate the suspects, failing which the human rights group will mobilise Malawians to go on the streets on April 29 this year.
Taking his turn, HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence said Chakwera has an opportunity to prove to Malawians that he can walk the talk on abuse of public funds by firing all senior officials involved in the plunder.
“As HRDC, we will not rest until our demands are met,” he warned.