Expenditure reports on the K6.2 billion Covid-19 response funds whose accountability is under scrutiny indicate that the bulk of the resources were spent on allowances and logistics compared to essential services such as supplies to hospital.
The reports further show duplication of activities and by extension costs among the 15 Covid-19 clusters under the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma).
The expenditure trend for September to December 2020 on the watch of President Lazarus Chakwera and Tonse Alliance appears similar to that of April to June 2020 under president Peter Mutharika and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as published by The Nation yesterday.
In yesterday’s edition of The Nation, it was detailed how Dodma blew K780 million Covid-19 funds in what analysts described as unjustified allowances.
Relating to the current case of K6.2 billion, some of the
provided by the employment and labour cluster lacked critical details such as allocation. cluster reports, especially those
The other clusters spent most of the funds on daily subsistence allowances (DSAs) and logistics while Malawi Defence Force (MDF) requested K272 million for providing security at Bingu Field Hospital at Bingu National Stadium (BNS) in Lilongwe for three months. The MDF security bill is more than the K199 million allocated to Mzuzu Central Hospital for the Covid-19 response.
A letter from MDF dated February 4 2021 and referenced OPS & TRG/A/125/1 signed by Lieutenant Colonel Mlotha on behalf of MDF Commander acknowledged receipt of K85 million but that the money was not spent “due to the commitment MDF had for the rotation of its troops who were deployed in DRC for UN peace keeping operations from December 1 2020 until January 21 2021”.
MDF also says it had diverted K100 million meant for border patrols and other internal Covid-19 response activities to BNS field hospital.
Reads the letter: “For reminder and your information, MDF estimates towards BNS Covid is K272 000 000 for a period of three months; hence, the K100 000 000 is part of the budget which covers only for one month. This gives a shortfall of K172 000 000…”
In the letter, MDF confirms that its main response activity is safeguarding BNS and supporting Ministry of Health (MoH) for smooth running of the field hospital.
The Health Cluster through MoH spent K3 billion on Covid-related activities between July and September 2020, including K82 million spent on the procurement of equipment which reportedly included 50 patient monitors for Covid-19 treatment units and K26 million spent on monitoring and evaluation activities.
Major hospitals were allocated K1.4 billion broken down as follows: Kamuzu Central Hospital (K415.5 million), Mzuzu Central Hospital (K199.9 million), Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (K436.2 million), Zomba Central Hospital (K347.7 million) and Zomba Mental Hospital (K17.5 million).
Between October and December
2020, MoH spent K1.4 billion. The expenditure included K25 million for the rehabilitation of Covid-19 treatment units (K5 million spent on supervision of the exercise), K189.8 million was paid for supply and installation of oxygen gas plant at Kamuzu Central Hospital, K105 million for procurement of Covid-19 treatment units, K138 million on monitoring and evaluation activities and communication while K850 million is yet to be paid for procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and patients.
MoH has received a further K160 million covering January to March, mostly for administrative work that includes monitoring and evaluation.
From July 2020 to January 2021, Dodma received K595 million.
A breakdown of their expenditures indicates that K39.1 million was spent on 28 meetings of the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19. The records show that the task force held four to five meetings per month. There were also three regional interface meetings with traditional and religious leaders, district commissioners and people with disabilities.
Dodma said it spent K10.2 million on fuel refunds for the 28 task force meetings and K253.9 million on DSAs for officers who conducted screening, testing, provided security, disinfection, clearing goods and immigration facilities for the returnees.
There is also listed a K42 million expenditure on food for the 21 422 returnees.
On average, there were 115 officers involved at reception centres for returnees. They included officials from Health, Police, Immigration, MDF, Social Welfare, WaSH and Dodma.
Dodma also indicates that it met transport expenses for 610 deportees from Mwanza or reception centres to their district of origins. The transport allocation ranged from K5 000 to K18 000 while K36 million was spent on fuel for reception of returnees, including hired vehicles such as MDF trucks and ambulances.
Dodma further reported that K2 million was spent on maintenance at Nalikule Teachers College and K9.7 million on maintenance at Mapanga Prisons Training School.
It also reported that K24 million was spent on maintenance of vehicles while K97 million was spent on disinfecting government offices at Capital Hill and City Centre in Lilongwe.
The Education Cluster report shows that it was allocated K100 million out of which they carried out school assessment nationally, notably 889 public and private schools (primary, secondary and early childhood development centres) in all 34 education districts. The exercise is said to have cost K11 million.
The cluster also said it collected data to appreciate the extent to which Covid-19 cost K15. 4 million. affected schools and this exercise
It transferred K20 million to MoH to support tertiary education sector to increase health personnel in Covid-19 response. The cluster also indicated that 267 unspecified gadgets were to be purchased at K53.4 million to support 267 biomedical students at College of Medicine, a constituent college of the University of Malawi.
The Local Government cluster was allocated K1.3 billion for all councils. However, its expenditure also covers Mzuzu Central Hospital and KCH.
Between August 2020 and January 31 2021, about K1 billion had been spent. Ironically, the two central hospitals also received a share of the Health Cluster allocation.
The councils spent 47 percent of the allocated Covid-19 resources on allowances which includes risk, DSA and lunch as well as fuel refund. The reports show that 11 percent went to procurement of PPE.
National Intelligence Service
National Intelligence Services (NIS) is among the security agencies that received funding, but its expenditure details were not shared publicly with the task force.
NIS director general Dokani Ngwira yesterday said the security agency provided an expenditure report, but asked the task force to limit access to its details.
“We asked for caution on how our information should be treated as it has security implications,” he said.
Reacting to the highlights of the expenditure reports, University of Malawi’s The Polytechnic associate professor of economics Betchani Tchereni expressed concern that the bulk of the funding was spent on logistics and allowances.
He said the trend reflects a deeply entrenched allowances culture where public servants look at disasters as opportunities to make more money.
Tchereni said the cluster reports reflect a lack of proper accounting standards or people are deliberately presenting sub-standard reports to conceal information for personal benefit or the officers involved are incompetent on matters of public finance management.
Health rights activist Maziko Matemba yesterday bemoaned the wastage, saying prudent investment of the same funds could have transformed the health sector.
“The field hospitals are temporary. We should have used resources to strengthen our health care system with proper infrastructure that would help us contain Covid-19 which is still around for some time and other health issues,” he said.
Malawi Police Service received K100 million, but utilised K72 million largely for enhancing prevention of the spread of the virus through procurement and distribution of PPE and other supplies.
For Social Support Cluster, out of K72 million they spent K21 million on allowances and fuel, K9 million on orientation workshop, K15 million on procurement of PPE for frontline workforce. Support to the elderly was K5 million out of which K2.8 million or 56 percent was spent on the eldery.
There was also an allocation of K20 million for protection of street children and the expenditure report shows that the funds mainly covered civic educating the children.
President Lazarus Chakwera has ordered a forensic audit of the K6.2 billion amid public fears that the funds disbursed in August 2020 were abused