Hearing of a K2 billion Cashgate case involving former Malawi Defence Force (MDF) commander Henry Odillo and others continued yesterday with then MDF director of finance Harry Chawinga denying knowledge of the contract.
Chawinga told the court that he was not informed about the deal despite holding such a position.
Odillo and three other former MDF and civilian officials are facing trial in connection with payments equivalent to K2 billion made to South Africa-based Thuso Group for supply of military equipment.
During cross-examination by defence lawyers, Chawinga said he was not sure whether Odillo personally participated in the selection of Thuso Group as ammunition supplier.
Earlier, Chawinga read to the court various documents related to the transaction, but told the court that he was not consulted when identifying Thuso Group contract.
He also said he never saw minutes of the internal procurement committee (IPC) meeting that endorsed the contract and whether Odillo also attended any such meeting.
But Odillo’s lawyer, Titus Mvalo, pointed out that his client was not part of the committee that awarded contracts to suppliers of goods at the MDF; hence, may not have conspired with Thuso in the first place.
While agreeing with Mvalo’s argument, Chawinga suggested that it was still possible that Odillo delegated his deputy commander to chair the committee.
Said Chawinga: “At MDF, all IPC meetings are chaired by the deputy commander. This means that even though the general was not part of the IPC, he may have delegated his deputy.”
But Mvalo argued that it was not Odillo who identified Thuso Group as a supplier. He said it was the decision of the IPC.
The defence also pointed out that despite denying knowledge of the contract, Chawinga, had signed two cheques for the payment of items from Thuso Group amounting to K920 million. But Chawinga said as director of finance he worked on trust because the director of logistics had already signed for the payment.
Odillo alongside his former deputy MDF commander Clement Kafuwa, former accountant general David Kandoje and Ganizani Kuchombo are accused of sanctioning payments to Thuso Group, a South Africa-based business group which prosecutors say was a fake military equipment supplier and, allegedly, invoiced and received pay from MDF amounting to K920 000 000 and ZAR30 000 000 (K1.5 billion) for supply of ammunition which they did not deliver.
The case is part of the infamous Cashgate—the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill exposed through the shooting of former Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo outside the gate of his Area 43 residence in Lilongwe on September 13 2013—where about K24 billion was stolen during a randomly chosen six months period auditors covered between April and September 2013. n