Abreak-in into the house of a high-ranking German official handling the K557 billion forensic audit of government coffers has sparked a diplomatic incident between Lilongwe and Berlin, Nation on Sunday can reveal.
German Ambassador Peter Woeste confirmed in an interview on Friday the previously unreported burglary on Lilongwe’s Area 43 residence of a GIZ expert, which occurred last month on July 27. Woeste said the burglary could be politically motivated.
According to diplomatic sources, thugs broke into the house of the official who is working on financial management system reforms where they only stole Cashgate work-related papers—prompting fears that the attack was motivated by the investigations into the K557 billion audit.
The GIZ expert’s name has been withheld for security reasons at the request of the German Embassy in Lilongwe. Sources, however, said documents stolen are those already in public domain.
Woeste said while they were still waiting for police report on the matter, the embassy was treating the break-in as work-related.
He said the embassy has raised its concerns about the break-in with highest levels of Malawi Government.
He said following the incident, he contacted senior people in government, including former Home Affairs minister Atupele Muluzi.
“Any criminal attack on one of my colleagues is unacceptable. I have had further meetings with the highest ranking officials on the matter. Of course, we are still waiting for a police report on the matter,” said Woeste.
Added Woeste: “We consider this work-related. The expert is working on the financial management system reforms. He had contact with the people who did the audit; well, the thieves should be disappointed because we have no information apart from what is available on the Internet.”
He said Germany was taking the incident “seriously” and wanted to see government taking action. Government, he said, had assured the embassy it will act on the matter.
“We told government we are worried to see criminal attacks that may appear to be politically motivated happening in this country. This may put Malawi on a dangerous road if government may miss the opportunity to take decisive action.
“We, the Germans and all donors, are working for Malawi. We are here to help the country. Things like these are not an attack just on the expert, it is an attack on Malawians,” added Woeste.
Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education Jappie Mhango declined to comment on the matter, but Chief Secretary to the Government George Mkondiwa confirmed having discussions with Woeste on the matter, but said the issue was resolved.
“It is an old story. It is not news. We met and discussed it. We are still on the police report, so I cannot say much,” said Mkondiwa.
But National Police spokesperson and deputy spokesperson Rhoda Manjolo and Nicholas Gondwa respectively said they had no information on the matter as of Thursday.
“I need to go back to our investigators to see if there was a report of such an incident,” said Manjolo before referring the matter to Gondwa, who said was yet to receive any information on the matter.
Germany, through its international cooperation wing, GIZ, is technically and financially supporting the audit, which is being carried out by auditing firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC)—focusing on financial mismanagement in government between 2009 and 2013.
Part of Cashgate is the K24 billion theft of public funds between April and September 2013 under the Joyce Banda administration. That plunder sparked the donor walk-out, but it later transpired that Cashgate goes several years back and may have been entrenched under the Bingu wa Mutharika administration.