Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) vice-chairperson Kamlepo Kalua on Tuesday ignored President Peter Mutharika’s 24-hour ultimatum for the legislator to disclose names of serving Cabinet ministers implicated in the recent forensic audit report.
Mutharika issued the ultimatum in Salima on Monday afternoon and gave Kalua, who is also Rumphi East member of Parliament (People’s Party-PP) and PP third vice-president, until 4pm yesterday to provide the information.
Apparently, Kalua had been vocal in demanding the dismissal of the said seven Cabinet ministers named in the forensic audit report covering the period 2009 to December 2014 which established that about K236 billion and not K577 billion in public funds as initially estimated could not be accounted for.
But as the 24-hour ultimatum expired on Tuesday, Kalua challenged that he would not provide the names as per Mutharika’s request because he had no such mandate.
“Is he [the President] serious that I should travel from [in Lilongwe] just to give him names when there is an office responsible right there, the Anti-Corruption Bureau [ACB] and the Auditor General which have these files and are public offices?
“The President has told Malawians that he does not work on ultimatums, but he is issuing one to me. I also don’t like ultimatums,” he said in a telephone interview.
Kalua argued that the President could not claim that he did not have the names when the Attorney General had advised the Auditor General against releasing the names when the demand was first made after the forensic audit was released.
He said: “How can the President reconcile that the Auditor General went to the Attorney General to seek guidance on releasing names and he was advised against the idea? What names was the Auditor General referring to?”
In response to Kalua’s refusal to furnish the President with the names, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani on Tuesday insisted that the President could not act on the MP’s wishes without information.
He said: “It is time for Malawians to decide if making such allegations without justification is right. Malawians should make up their minds about such a person.”
Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa presented the audit report to Parliament in June, but the lack of detail such as names of the alleged culprits has irked some sections of society, including PAC which has accused the President of shielding ministers involved.
The bone of contention has arisen from the data analysis carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) released in May 2015 which estimated the unreconciliated funds at K577 billion. However, British firm RSM Risk Assurance LLP, in its forensic audit report, established that the unaccounted for funds stood at K236 billion.
In July this year, Kamphasa told The Nation the Attorney General’s office had advised against releasing the names of individuals and businesses named in the audit report for fear of legal implications and jeopardising investigations.
Malawi Law Society (MLS) also backed the Attorney General’s position, saying releasing the names suspected of abusing funds could affect investigations.
The shooting of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo at the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on September 13 2013 is widely believed to have revealed the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
In reaction, former president Joyce Banda ordered an audit which British forensic auditor, Baker Tilly, undertook covering the period April to September 2013. It established that about K24 billion was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.
In May last year, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciliated between 2009 and December 31 2014.