Barely a month after Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation instituted audits at Malawi missions abroad, two senior diplomats have been recalled and suspended from the embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia over allegations of fraud.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has confirmed the recall and suspension of Deputy Ambassador Doreen Kapanga and first secretary (administration) Fletcher Chowe for allegedly attempting to siphon $30 000 (about K20 million) through a cheque written in the First Secretary’s name.
The ministry said an investigative audit has been instituted to check the extent of the fraudulent activities at the embassy which represent Malawi in Ethiopia and the African Union (AU).
Chimango Chirwa, Malawi Ambassador to Ethiopia and Head of Mission at the AU headquarters, confirmed that his office intercepted a fraudulent $31 000 cheque issued in the first secretary’s (adminstration) name without authorisation and without supporting documents.
“It was co-signed by the former deputy ambassador who has since returned home on recall. We made the discovery on 31st March 2016 before the cheque was cashed,” he said.
He said appropriate charges would be levelled against the two, and a local staff accountant who wrote the cheque, once investigations have been concluded.
Said Chirwa: “As for the former deputy ambassador, it is expected that she will provide her account of the matter to the ministry headquarters, only to the extent of the fact that her signature appears on the fraudulent cheque.”
Before her appointment to Ethiopia, Kapanga was a Deputy Inspector General of Police.
Chirwa also said Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation George Chaponda assured him that an investigative audit will be deployed to assess the full extent of the suspected fraud, if at all. In an interview, Chaponda said that he was informed of the allegations when he visited Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia where he was attending the African Union election for commissioners which he was chairing.
He said it was incumbent upon every controlling officer, who is the head at every embassy, to ensure fraud does not take place and promised that audits will be carried out periodically from now on.
The development has come at a time Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has instituted reforms in Malawi’s missions abroad which includes reducing the number of diplomats in established positions from 234 to 152 and established an appraisal system to apply to local and Malawi staff.
Government has recalled 82 diplomats from the country’s foreign missions and plans to reduce the number further by the end of June next year.
Malawi has 19 foreign missions, the largest number being in Africa followed by four in Europe, five in Asia in addition to the United Nations mission in New York, United States of America. n