Loopholes in Malawi Government systems continue to leak public money through syndicates that are targeting cheques from various ministries and departments.
A syndicate believed to be behind some stolen government cheques last week found itself in a police dragnet in Lilongwe in connection with the missing of a K52 million cheque from the Ministry of Health and another cheque of over K670 000 from the Ministry of Education.
The syndicate, according to Lilongwe Police, also involved officials from some banks and lending institutions.
Lilongwe Police deputy spokesperson Kingsley Dandaula on Friday said officers arrested Jones Gwiriza of Izwe Loans Limited and businessperson Bright Singani in connection with the Ministry of Education cheque.
“Gwiriza connived with the businessman [Singani] to take and cash a cheque from the Ministry of Education. The cheque is for over K670 000. He wanted him to cash the cheque at a bank [name withheld] in Lilongwe,” said Dandaula.
“It is a syndicate involving some bank officials and businesspersons to cash government cheques. This cheque came from the Ministry of Education as payment to the lending institution. Government cheques come from the Reserve Bank of Malawi and go to the ministries, and are targeted,” he said.
Dandaula said the two suspects, who appeared in court and are on bail, are answering four charges of theft, obtaining money by false pretence, conspiracy as well as uttering and forging documents.
A detective investigating the matter confirmed the theft of the K52 million cheque from the Ministry of Health.
“This is a sensitive matter,” he said when asked to provide details of the cheque.
Asked about the K52 million cheque, Dandaula said he needed time to get details from detectives handling the matter.
But in an earlier interview, Lilongwe Police spokesperson Ramsey Mshane confirmed the theft of the two cheques.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Henry Chimbali said they were also investigating the matter.
Targeting cheques is another formula fraudsters are using to steal government money.
In February, 2013, Weekend Nation exposed a syndicate involving officers from several ministries and departments who created an account at First Merchant Bank (FMB) which they used to deposit K11 million for pensions and gratuity for the benefit of a person who does not appear in the government system.
The syndicate beat government accounting package, Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS), which is supposed to stave off embezzlers.