Police in Mzuzu have said the Mzuzu University (Mzuni) student accused of defrauding the university of K6.3 million ($9 091) in a mini Cashgate-like scam may have gone away with not more than K2.2 million ($3 175).
In December last year, police arrested Dumisani Kagunga Kaunga, a final year bachelor of science in biomedical science student, for hoodwinking the university’s treasury by creating 12 ghost students who periodically received K40 000 ($58) upkeep allowance each.
However, Mzuzu Police Station spokesperson Martin Bwanali said in an interview that a forensic examination of related documents revealed that the loss attributed to Kaunga’s dozen of non-existent students could be around K4.1 million less than the initial estimate.
The fraud exposed loopholes in Mzuni’s registration system as well as the involved commercial banks’ account opening procedures in the face of know your customer (KYC) requirement.
But in an interview after the incident was exposed, Bankers Association of Malawi (BAM) president Misheck Esau expressed shock at the scam and hinted that there could have been a system breakdown on the part of the banks and the university.
He wondered how Mzuni could incorporate 12 students into the system when they never existed.
Esau also said the banks could have done better by thoroughly checking the alleged student before letting him open the accounts.
The slump of the money Kaunga kept withdrawing from three banks where the ghost learners were purported to have accounts—Standard Bank, NBS Bank and Malawi Savings Bank—follows earlier indications by the crime detection agency that the final year student had declined pocketing as much and accused some finance officers at Mzuni of taking advantage of the fictional names to enrich themselves.
Said Bwanali: “The reduction follows the audit which the college auditors carried out on the issue.”
In the meantime, police have drafted fresh charges against Kaunga to be presented to court which reflect the findings of the recent audit.
The court has not set the date for the continuation of the hearing, but police said the prosecution was ready to take the case to a new level.
The suspect, who has been withdrawn from the university, first appeared before Mzuzu senior resident magistrate Austin Banda on December 2 2015 where he pleaded not guilty to two counts of forgery and theft.
Police took him before court in honour of the 48-hour bail rule, but failed to move the court to have him remanded at Mzuzu Prison pending conclusion of the investigations.
However, the court granted the suspect bail to allow him to write examinations.
It is reported that between September 2013 and 2014, Kaunga used his standing as treasurer of Mzuzu University Student Union to enrol ghost students for whom he allegedly opened account numbers in various banks where he fraudulently channelled the money under dispute.
Forensic document examination conducted at National Police Headquarters in Lilongwe indicated the suspect authored the bank account details, Bwanali said.
The accused, 27, comes from Mwabuwira in Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe in Rumphi.
Kaunga’s case last year was the second involving alleged fraud by university students. In March, a student at Catholic University of Malawi in Chiradzulu sucked K15 million from the institution using forged and stamped bank deposit slips that purportedly showed he had paid fees through the bank.