President Lazarus Chakwera’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Wednesday cast doubt whether government will follow up the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds investigation with further audits as he did not outline the initiative.
On April 18 this year, the President pledged to conduct a fresh audit on Covid-19 funds and expenditures on infrastructure projects, but later government announced there was no funding for such audits.
In his speech, the President simply pledged “audits of other public funds” but fell short of explaining whether those funds include Covid-19 funds which were not audited during the recent forensic investigation of the K6.2 billion expenditure, and when the audits will happen.
Said Chakwera: “To capacitate our response systems, I ordered the Treasury to release K17.5 billion for the mitigation of the pandemic. This was in addition to the K7.5 billion and K6.2 billion allocations made previously. As this august House is aware, I personally ordered an audit of the K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds following a report by the Ombudsman about indications that some of the funds had been abused.
“Once the independent audit report was out, my administration was then able to take actions based on evidence presented to me, including dozens of arrests. In my public announcement of those actions, I also announced that other public funds would be audited as well so that the evidence can be used to identify and clear more rubble from the State machinery.”
In his April speech, the President was far more pointed, saying: “I promise that this K6.2 billion audit is only the beginning, for I have every intention of conducting similar audits into the other funds spent on Covid-19, as well as audits into other public funds spent by various institutions.”
Chakwera, who declared that the war on Covid-19 pandemic was a top priority for his administration, further detailed what government has done since the first case of the pandemic was reported in the country and also its toll on the country including 1 150 lives lost.
Among other measures, he cited the rolling out of a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination programme in March this year, reporting that about 325 797 people had been vaccinated across the country.
“More avenues for securing additional vaccines are being explored, for I have categorically refused to let our citizens be inoculated with expired vaccines. If it’s not good enough for use in the northern hemisphere, then it’s not good enough for use in the southern hemisphere,” added Chakwera.