Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has called for a public inquiry on the alleged embezzlement of money at the Malawi chancery in Nairobi, Kenya where an audit has shown billions of kwacha were spent without supporting documents.
The committee made the call after noting that there were unexplained expenditures at the chancery, according to an investigative audit report for the accounts of the Government of Malawi for the year ending June 2013.
Committee chairperson Alekeni Menyani said last week there is need for the inquiry to find out what happened at the chancery and trace beneficiaries of the funds as well as how tenders were given and money paid. The audit, according to Menyani, established that money was paid but work was not done.
He said: “There is a lot of unexplained money involved in this audit report which has also raised our eyebrows. We need a public inquiry on this and involve the required experts, including the Malawi Law Society [MLS], so that the truth should be known.”
Among other queries, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation officials, led by Principal Secretary Isaac Munlo, were asked to explain why the Nairobi mission engaged an expensive law firm to handle its issues at the expense of a legal firm charging less.
During the meeting with PAC, it was learnt that Kairu Mbhuthia and Kiingati Associates were given the contract at $2 023.81 per month whereas Lloyd Masiku, whose contract was terminated, was charging $892.86 monthly.
Menyani said records show that most funds out of the Malawi mission in Nairobi were paid through Kairu Mbhutia and Kiiangati Associates.
Munlo, who is the controlling officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, said the public inquiry is a welcome development as it will clarify issues, including what transpired at the time the funds were abused.
He said: “We welcome the idea of the inquiry because even from our findings, things did not work out as expected as the auditors have rightly observed.
“Firms such as Kairu Mbhuthia and Kiingati Associates were fiduciary custodians of Malawi government property who did not discharge their duties as contained in the letter of appointment.”
Munlo said the firm was involved in a breach of contract on various aspects such as failing to engage architects or determine scope of work and also certify completed works; hence, their involvement of the Attorney General to help seek redress.
He said: “We would like to bring to book those that were involved in the malpractice and make sure we have an account of how public money was spent on issues that never even materialised.”
Among others, the ministry was asked to account for an explanation of why 11.9 million Kenyan shilling were transferred to Other Recurrent Transactions account without Treasury approval, and Kairu Mbhuthia and Kiingati Associates allowed Memu General Building, a lone bidder, to raise invoice of repairs of official residence at Ridgeways in Kenya for invoice number 0226 at $11 729.81 and invoice number 0227 at $5 109. 52 without issuance of completion certificates.
The report also shows a charge for the rehabilitation of the chancery at $197 892 when the very same rehabilitation works were done at $12 000 with the new management.
Developments regarding management of funds at the Kenya mission come against the background of revelations of the rot in foreign missions exposed early last year when it was disclosed that about K184 million was abused at the Malawi Embassy in Ethiopia.
The revelation led to the suspension of deputy ambassador at the mission, Doreen Kapanga, and Fletcher Chowe, who was first secretary for administration and finance.
Towards the end of last year, the National Audit Office (NAO) deployed about 30 auditors to 10 of Malawi’s 19 foreign missions following allegations of fraud and maladministration of finances.
Currently, Malawi has embassies in Brazil, United Kingdom, China, Egypt, Ethiopia (including African Union Commission), Germany, India, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, United Nations, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe. n