Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa yesterday went to town on President Lazarus Chakwera, accusing him of looking for excuses to arrest former president Peter Mutharika’s appointees and divert people from his campaign promises.
At a press conference in Lilongwe yesterday, Nankhumwa said the President exaggerated the amount he claimed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime plundered during its two stints at the helm.
Chakwera put the alleged looting at over K1 trillion, which Nankhumwa charged was embellished in pursuit of persecution of former Mutharika appointees under the guise of an anti-corruption crusade.
But in an interview yesterday, Chakwera’s executive assistant Sean Kampondeni challenged Nankhumwa to instead state how much the DPP looted during its rule.
Nankhumwa addressed the media in response to Chakwera’s statement made on Saturday in which he spoke of the alleged massive plunder of public resources.
Said Chakwera in his speech: “Their [DPP] evil works are now coming to light, some of which are clearly spelled out in the Auditor General’s report for the fiscal year that ended on June 30th, 2019…
“Though many did not believe me 15 months ago when I said that the total sum of money stolen by the DPP was K1 trillion, it is now becoming clear to everyone that the DPP is guilty of a crime worse than Cashgate. Its crime is Cashgate treason.”
But at the press conference, where he was accompanied by the party’s governing council member Joseph Mwanamvekha, legal adviser Charles Mhango and another executive member Zeria Chakale, Nankhumwa said Chakwera’s claim demonstrates that he may not be well conversant with the financial operations of government.
He said: “The President clearly deceived the nation that the DPP government misappropriated and mismanaged a total sum in excess of K1 trillion. President Chakwera must be informed that if an economy as small as ours was robbed of that sum of money, his administration would not have found any penny in the government coffers.”
Nankhumwa, however, could not be drawn to say how much he thinks was stolen or misappropriated during the DPP reign, saying the Auditor General’s report will exonerate the DPP on the President’s claim.
The Leader of Opposition added that the Auditor General’s report which Chakwera referenced only points at inefficiencies in the government system without attributing them to the former governing party.
He said the report, among others, mentions non-compliance by individual government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) such as delays in paying contractors, payment vouchers without supporting documents, abandonment of construction works and under-collection of revenue.
“The President’s address is a desperate attempt to mislead the nation on matters of management of the economy, by taking advantage of people’s ignorance on such issues,” said Nankhumwa.
He advised Chakwera to start working towards fulfilling the promises he made and garnering collective support towards managing the Covid-19 health crisis.
“President Chakwera must prioritise nation-building and his thirst for settling political scores against DPP members and leaders must take a backseat,” said Nankhumwa.
But when asked to comment on the DPPs reaction, Kampondeni, in a written response, said Malawi has suffered years of DPP rule and that if Nankhumwa disputes that K1 trillion was mismanaged or stolen, then he should tell Malawians the correct amount that was siphoned under his party’s watch.
Said Kampondeni: “Since he deems himself to have a better grasp of the extent of theft under the DPP regime than the State President, let him enlighten Malawians about what exactly his party stole and mismanaged in the nine-years it was in power.”
Though Chakwera referred to the Auditor General’s report as only part of the plunder by DPP, The Nation’s calculation indicates that cumulatively, an aggregated K313 billion was unaccounted for between 2009 and 2018. But we could not immediately establish how much could not be accounted for between 2004 and 2009, which was the DPP’s first term under the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
This rough estimation is based only on published reports by the National Audit Office (NAO) as well as one other independent audit and business advisory firm PriceWaterhouse Coopers (PwC).
Between 2009 and 2014, PwC—through its financial analysis conducted in 2015—initially estimated that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciled. However, the figure was later revised downwards to K236 billion.
In 2015, K33 billion vanished before the loss improved to K5.3 billion in 2016, according to NAO Audit report.
The 2017 NAO report exposed that about K3.2 billion was unaccounted for, only for the figure to rise to K35 billion in the 2018 NAO report.
Meanwhile, a University of Malawi’s Chancellor College political science lecturer Mustafa Hussein said by highlighting government flaws, the DPP is only playing its opposition role.
However, another political scientist Ernest Thindwa faulted Nankhumwa and the DPP for refuting the looting claim, saying the best they could have done was to apologise to Malawians because the looting revelations are too enormous.