Former Malawi Defence Force (MDF) commander General Henry Odillo, who has been implicated in the Baker Tilly report on Cashgate released on Thursday, refused to react to the allegations against him yesterday, saying he will do so at an appropriate time.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Odillo said: “I don’t have an answer yet but I will be able to answer at an appropriate time and please respect my view.”
The report has alleged that Odillo co-signed two cheques totalling K1.5 billion (US$3 225 806) with two top army officials in favour of a South African company, Thuso, which is said to have provided legal services to the MDF.
But according to the report, there was no correspondence indicating any legal advice from the said company.
Contrary to popular belief, especially on social media, the list of suspects who allegedly stole from Malawians do not include senior politicians such former president Joyce Banda and her vice-president Khumbo Kachali.
But Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu told the media on Thursday during the release of the report that investigations into Cashgate were on-going.
The auditors have, however, identified nine people linked to companies involved in Cashgate, among them Roy Kachale, son to former president Banda, who was alleged to be in a relationship with Laura Savala who allegedly stole K249 million (US$535 484).
Kachale, however, yesterday denied any involvement when we sought his reaction.
He said he would come up with a press statement on the matter.
Reads the National Audit Office (NAO) report: “One individual who ran for election is noted to have received K4 428 316 582 with the lowest amount being K16 750 000. Four individuals are linked to a business that received in excess of K100 000 000. These links would suggest the proceeds of Cashgate may have been used to support electoral campaigns though it is not possible to confirm the source of the funding.”
The report also lists three law firms which benefitted from ‘Cashgate funds’; namely, Ralph and Arnolds, Knights and Knights as well as Joe and Max Chambers.
The list of names has been classified as follows: Schedule of Cashgate payments where accounting entries were deleted, schedule of other payments where funds have been misappropriated, schedule of companies that received Cashgate cheques in alphabetical order, schedule of companies that received Cashgate cheques (in value order), schedule showing the different loss types split between the different businesses.
The report states that in total, 104 government of Malawi cheques, totalling K 6.9 billion were paid to 39 different companies when they had not supplied any services to government, the majority of which were deleted from the system.
“We identified 32 cheques, totalling K 1 302 517 064 that had been paid to 18 different companies with characteristics of ‘Cashgate’, but for which no supporting evidence could be located.”
The accounting entries for these transactions were not deleted as per the Soft Tech report.
The report further reads that government will have to investigate further payments amounting to K 8.7 billion, which include forex transaction documents that cannot be traced and payments on behalf of the Malawi Police Service that were outside the scope of the forensic audit.
Banks which have been identified as having been complicit in Cashgate have also been named, National Bank of Malawi has the highest number of Cashgate deposited cheques (28 out of 104) as well as the highest number of accounts of businesses that were recipients of Cashgate cheques (12 out of 39).
Speaking during the press conference , Tembenu, who was flanked by Minister of Information Kondwani Nankhumwa and deputy Auditor General Langton Gomani, stressed that the report was not an indictment of anybody, but investigations into how government lost billions.
“The report is not a court judgement and should be treated as an investigative report. Most of the names here are already in the public domain and these people are answering cases in court,” Tembenu said.