Twenty newly-appointed controlling officers in the public service have been warned against any recurrence of mismanagement of public funds within their ministries or risk prosecution and dismissals.
The warning comes against a background of the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill, dubbed Cashgate.
In an interview yesterday, Chief Secretary to the Government George Mkondiwa confirmed the appointments but could not give further details.
He referred the reporter to official government spokesperson Jappie Mhango, the new Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education.
However, Mhango’s phone was out of network reach.
Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya said the warning or caution was not new in government. He said instead, the contracts re-affirm the position of government.
He said: “Following Cashgate, it became very clear that most principal secretaries [PSs] were not in charge of the finances under their ministry/department. Most PSs feigned ignorance on what happened then. The responsibility of managing funds, approving expenditure was left to accountants and junior officers.
“In order to avoid recurrence of such things, the Chief Secretary has issued letters appointing certain PSs as controlling officers. The letter basically tells them that they will be personally held responsible should funds be misused or stolen. The appointments are in line with the Public Finance Management Act of 2003.”
Cashgate involved systematic looting of billions of public funds. Several high-ranking public officers, including PSs as well as businesspersons, have been implicated.
Donors have since withheld budgetary support since revelations of Cashgate came to the fore in 2013.
The shooting of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo outside the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on September 13 2013 exposed the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
British forensic audit firm, Baker Tilly, established that between April and September 2013, about K24 billion in public funds was abused through payments for goods and services not rendered; inflated payments and payments without supporting documentation.
In May this year, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciliated for the period between 2009 and December 31 2014.