Hon Folks, all along it was Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe demanding an explanation on how Mera used K2.9 billion from the Price Stabilisation Fund (PSF) for the procurement of maize for Admarc.
As the gatekeeper of public funds, Gondwe knew such a transaction can only be as irregular as it is illegal. Ignoring it could aggravate the perception of impunity and high-level corruption already rocking our economy.
Hats off Gondwe, you are the man!
It has turned out that Mera had no business using funds meant from PSF for the purchase of maize. The transaction, noble though it may appear to some, was irregular and illegal.
Consequently, Mera CEO Raphael Kamoto and director of finance Ellias Hausi were summarily dismissed. Right message, one would say, in the fight against impunity.
But how does government explain its indifference to the management of Lilongwe Water Board who drew K10 million from the parastatal coffers and donated it to DPP. Is that transaction regular? Is it legal? Is it too hot for Gondwe to question?
The case of Lilongwe Water Board is straightforward: a CEO of a parastatal—a government owned enterprise—is approached by the party in government for a donation. On the surface, it’s a mere request—not an order—but senior officials know better how such requests put them on the spot.
In Malawi, longevity of tenure in appointed positions in government pretty much depends on perceived loyalty to the President and the party in government. Failures are more likely to keep their jobs than go-getters who dare give the political leadership a reason to doubt their loyalty.
Management of LWB, which has failed miserably to quench the parched throats of the residents in this growing city, know that they are safer on their jobs by giving K10 million to DPP than by guaranteeing a steady supply of potable water at affordable tariff rate.
Was there big brother prodding Kamoto and Hausi to release money for the purchase of maize? It’s hard to know. What’s known is that their fate has a Mother Teresa spin to it. We are told the K2.9 billion was used to buy 10 000 metric tonnes (MT) of maize for Admarc to sell in a year when government told the world that over 8.4 million Malawians—half the population of 17 million—were food insecure.
They may be villains now for flouting procedures in their quest to save life but probably they will have the last laugh in God’s kingdom.
Back to the Mera saga: having summarily dismissed Kamoto and Hausi, the Mera board then issued a press statement, pledging to ensure that Mera is “never again involved in financial transactions that flout applicable laws and regulations.”
That statement, to me, is as much a Mera pledge to do better in future as it is an admission that this once at least, the Mera board was sleeping on the job as billions got diverted to Admarc for the purchase of maize.
Which begs the question: could management indeed divert K2.9 billion from the PSF without first seeking board approval?
If the board—which, according to law, constitutes management—knew and gave a nod, then isn’t it being hypocritical to turn around now that things are dicey and heap the whole blame on “officers” of Mera?
Does the board chair, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph P. Bvumbwe, feel strongly that he and his fellow directors are 100 percent innocent?
Short of government coming clear on why Kamoto and Hausi alone, and not the board, should bear the cross for the illegal drawing, it appears to me that the two are mere scapegoats for a “crime” that probably goes beyond Mera management and board.