Two Cabinet ministers on Monday stormed Mchinji District Council to seek answers on alleged abuse of K68 million meant for the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme (DAHSP), widely known as Malata and Cement Subsidy.
The fact-finding mission by Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi and Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Anna Kachikho followed revelations of the scam by our sister newspaper, Nation on Sunday.
In an interview on Tuesday, Dausi confirmed making the unannounced visit to the council alongside Kachikho to learn from council staff on what happened.
He said: “We established that there were certain issues regarding payment, but most of the staff that were at the council at the time the money was misappropriated are no longer there. We want them subpoenaed to clearly explain how the funds were spent.
“We want to thank Nation [on Sunday] newspaper for exposing this. There is indeed terrible theft by some of these civil servants. Malata Subsidy Programme is for Malawians and not some people just spending the money without getting clearance from Treasury.”
Dausi, who is also the official government spokesperson, said President Peter Mutharika was under fire because of corrupt tendencies by some civil servants.
He indicated that former district commissioner (DC) for Mchinji, Richard Hara, under whose watch the funds were allegedly abused, should be asked to explain how the money was spent.
But in an interview on Tuesday, Hara, who was transferred to Karonga late last year, wondered why he should be summoned to explain when he was the whistleblower.
He said: “I was the first person who observed that things are wrong and I wrote the National Local Government Finance Committee, who identified an auditor to come and undertake an audit.
“The Ministry of Lands was also alerted and the ministry also sent its auditors. When the report came out, letters were sent to the people involved to respond and they did. However, by the time they were responding, I had already been transferred to Karonga.”
Hara said he did not sign any cheques relating to the funds that were misappropriated.
An investigative internal audit report we have seen on DAHSP funds for the district for July 1 2015 to September 15 2016 shows that K33 518 735 20 in expenditures could not be accounted for and payment vouchers and requisitions were either not certified or authorised by the responsible personnel.
The audit also revealed that K52 975 158 00 was used for other council activities not related to the programme. n