If there were any attempts by Malawi President Joyce Banda or any agency to fool around with findings into the cashgate scandal, Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) is watching from a different angle, Weekend Nationhas established.
We have established that MHRC is separately investigating and monitoring trends in President Banda and government’s efforts to ensure justice is done in the ongoing probe and prosecution of cashgate cases.
Chairperson Sophie Kalinde said in an interview that MHRC has resolved to embark on a “comprehensive assessment of the impact of cashgate on the performance of Government’s human rights obligations.”
We have also seen communication from MHRC to the President, warning against any political attempts to thwart the process.
The development comes just as the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and National Democratic Institute (NDI) research findings suggest that cashgate is an election issue likely to work against President Banda’s first presidential election test.
Kalinde, in the January 24, 2014 letter, said MHRC appreciates efforts so far taken but urged: “Thus government should in particular avoid measures that are seen as covering up on relevant evidence or selectively dealing with individuals implictated by cashgate.”
“Government should also ensure that vested political interests and other interests should not be allowed to inform or drive Government’s response to this deep seated governance issue,” said Kalinde.
Other letters worded in a similar fashion went to Chief Secretary Hawa Ndilowe, Solicitor General Janet Banda, Secretary to Treasury Newby Kumwembe, Accountant General Thomas Makiwa, Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa, Inspector General Lot Dzonzi and Anti-Corruption Bureau Director Rizine Mzikamanda.
So far, only ACB has responded to the letter, according to our sources, but presidential adviser on communications and politics Wakuda Kamanga said: “HE has no intention to interfere with the cashgate probe.”
“The President has not in any way used her political powers to influence the process. Why must she interfere when it was her who commissioned the process and she wants the best out of it,” added Kamanga.
The ACB publicist Egrita Ndala acknowledged there has been such communication but emphasised that “the report from MHRC did not provide new information to the investigation apart from what had been found already by the bureau.”
“We had progressed far beyond the story when the documents were sent to us by MHRC,” said Ndala suggesting that “most, if not all, the documents sent to us by MHRC originated from the bureau”
When called, Kalinde refused to take most of our questions on her communication only emphasizing on MHRC’s overall mandate and its specific mandate on matters such as cashgate.
“Further, to the extent that the cashgate issue has far-reaching repercussions for human rights in connection with Government’s performance in social service delivery, e.g. in the health and education sector, the cashgate issue is a human rights issue. These, among other things, are the reasons why MHRC is dealing with the issue of cashgate,” said Kalinde.
But our sources at OPC, State House and Treasury, confirmed Kalinde’s communication on cashgate.
“The letter came but I don’t think HE has replied,” said a State House source.
According to Kalinde “so far, the MHRC has dealt with cashgate through issuance of a press release and engagement on the same with the President.”
According to the January 24, 2014 communication, MHRC met President Banda on November 15, 2013, where among others; the commission brought to the table the issue of cashgate.
“During the briefing, one of the issues that was focused upon, was the embezzlement of funds by different members of the Malawi Government Civil Service in complicity with companies, banks, individuals, different ministries and organisations….,
According to documents in our possession, MHRC probe has so far corroborated most initial findings by various agencies on public servants and companies involved in a saga MHRC views as a violation of people’s rights.
But there are also details revealing that cashgate did not spare the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) where some eight illegal transactions were noted.
These are in addition to 62 irregular transactions at Ministry of Tourism, 33 at Ministry of Local Government, 14 at OPC and 20 at Ministry of Irrigation involving some 46 private companies.
The action of MHRC stems from its broad mandate of promotion and protection of human rights as outlined in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and the Human Rights Commission Act.
“Out of this mandate, the commission’s functions are multifaceted, including, ensuring that justice is served for the people of Malawi on the issue of cashgate, ensuring that those implicated are dealt with in accordance with the law, and that everyone implicated is held responsible, as no person is above the law,” said Kalinde.