The United States government has said it will no longer provide funds directly to the Ministry of Health (MoH) due to the ministry’s bad record on use of funds previously provided by American institutions.
Last year, an audit report prepared by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed that civil servants and other unscrupulous Malawians defrauded government of K2.5 billion United States government’s Centre for Disease Control (CDC) funding for HIV and Aids fight.
The report indicates that a total of K2 520 272 421.62 was stolen between 2013 and 2015 through dubious means.
The audit also revealed that officers drew fuel not in tandem with distances travelled, adding that there was poor fuel management amounting to K277 114 171.62.
The report implicates some top officers in the HIV and Aids section at the ministry. Other professional and support staff were also named besides people who do not work in the ministry, but are suspected to have connived with members of staff to siphon the money.
The Office of the Auditor General (AG) has since ordered the Ministry of Health to refund K875 million to CDC.
A recent letter from the AG’s office to the Ministry of Health which Weekend Nation has seen demands that the officials refund the money.
The AG said after an audit review, the final sum looted stands at K925.9 million—from K2.5 billion.
Said the AG in the letter: “I wish to inform you that some payments have been deemed ineligible because the basis for the payments was unreasonable and the officers were not eligible to attend the activities.
“Upon conclusion of the matter, you are urged to refund to CDC all ineligible expenditures as soon as possible.”
The AG also noted that out of 63 officers who were asked to account for the misuse of the funds, 10 officers have not responded.
He has since warned the officers that failure to respond within agreed time frame will be presumed as accepting the claims against them.
However, in an interview yesterday, US Embassy public affairs officer Edward Monster said the recommendation to refund misused funds does not deter future malfeasance or bring culprits to justice.
Said Monster: “We continue to call upon the Government of Malawi to take decisive disciplinary action against the employees involved.”
He disclosed that as a result of this unfortunate incident, the US Government no longer provides funds directly to the Ministry of Health.
On his part, Minister of Health Peter Kumpalume expressed satisfaction with the outcome of the probe.
He said the audit has fully exposed the extent of the scam and that it is now up to the authorities to take appropriate action on those found to have abused public resources.
“It is up to the Office of President and Cabinet [OPC] or the Health Service Commission to take action,” said Kumpalume. n