Audit uncovers K444m fraud at Malawi’s Foreign Affairs Ministry

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A probe into embassies and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation covering the 2017/18 financial year has revealed that workers colluded to steal K444 million from government.

The audit conducted by National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that employees at the ministry and in embassies transferred public funds into personal accounts.

Acting Auditor General Thomas Makiwa said the ministry failed to abide by the Public Finance Management Act on several occasions.

The Nation newspaper reported that the audit found unverified external travel allowances amounting to K165 million at the ministry headquarters in Lilongwe.

The ministry also spent K16.6 million on cancelled air tickets, paid K7.6 million of external travel allowances on a fully-funded trip, paid K301 370.04 for a trip not undertaken by a former PS in the ministry and failed to account for K29 million spent on fuel.
At the embassy in Ethiopia, auditors noted that employees worked in collusion to steal public funds.

“Fake remittance advices [which usually reflected smaller figures than the original ones] were e-mailed to the embassy by the senior accounts clerk.

“Then the Deputy Head of Mission, Doreen Kapanga, would download the e-mail and put the fake remittance advices on official file. Apparently, she was well aware of the actual/original funding figures having been informed.

“The auditors concluded that the plan was to hide the actual funding figures from other diplomats who were not involved in the scheme to ensure easy encashment and deposit the difference between the fake remittances and the genuine transactions into the personal accounts of Kapanga and Chowe without any suspicion,” the newspaper reports.

Auditors discovered that the payments were made through cheques disguised as rentals, shipments of goods for recalled diplomats and advances.

At the Malawi High Commission in London, the audit found wasteful expenditure on the rehabilitation of the official residence up to K2.6 million and noted that the embassy engaged a gardener at Kwacha House in London without contract amounting to K615 973.57.

In Belgium and the European Union, the probe found that K7.2 million was charged to wrong accounts and that a scholarship facility for about K275 662.50 was abused.

The audit also revealed remittance without a corresponding deposit of K18.6 million and self –authorisation of allowances at K12.6 million.

In Germany, the Malawi Embassy based in Berlin used K30 million for unbudgeted activities and there was also a difference in funding figures from Treasury and actual funding received of about K34,774.

At the Malawi mission in Beijing, China, employees misallocated funds amounting to K18.7 million and failed to refund K18 million borrowed from deposit account.

The probe revealed that visa funds from South Korea amounting to K26.4 million was not remittted and K5.9 million immigration revenue was used without authorisation at the Malawi Embassy in Japan.

In Cairo, Egypt, the Malawi mission had misallocations of funds amounting to K19.3 million and the embassy repaid a K4.4 million loan on behalf of former ambassador at

The final audit has disclosed weaknesses in financial and internal controls both at the ministry headquarters and embassies.

The Acting Auditor General, Makiwa, has since called for the need to strengthen audit committees in all ministries, departments and agencies

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