Over K100 billion is suspected to have been stolen from Malawi Government from 2015 to 2020, with K30 billion unaccounted for in 2015 alone.
The National Audit Office (NAO) published Audit reports following investigations into national budget expenditure covering 2015 to 2020. An analysis of the reports by Nation Publications has revealed that some public officers may have looted public funds.
According to the analysis, councils as well as Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) failed to provide documentations for over K100 billion spent during the period.
In 2015 when K30 billion was unaccounted for by MDAs, Ministry of Agriculture was the main culprit after failing to account for K16.8 billion. In 2016, the amount unaccounted for was K517 million.
About K7.3 billion is suspected to have been siphoned from government coffers in 2017 as public officers failed to provide documentation for the expenditure to auditors. In 2018, the amount totaled K5.6 billion while in 2019 financial year it was K10 billion.
In the 2020 financial year, MDAs failed to provide supporting documentation for expenditure totaling K26 billion, with K16 billion being not accounted for at the Malawi Police Service.
Local government councils failed to account for K22 billion over the six year period, including K10 billion which is suspected to have been stolen in 2015/16.
Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency (CSAT) executive director Willy Kambwandira accused some MDAs of cover-up, saying they deliberately destroy documents so that looting of public funds should not be detected.
“These are strategic ways of looting public coffers. There is no way in a government system, let alone at any institution one would process payments without supporting documents. This is collusion among public officers,” Kambwandira said.
He noted that authorities do not take action against public officers when audit reports are released.
“This is what is fueling this continued looting of public coffers,” he said.
Joseph Mwanamvekha, who served as Minister of Finance between 2017 and 2020, said sometimes documents could go missing because there are sometimes a number of stakeholders involved hence an audit query does not always mean money was lost.
He, however, faulted weak laws for authorities’ failure to prosecute officers who di not account for public funds.
“This is why we [Democratic Progressive Party government] started review of the Public Finance Management Act which has been discussed and passed in Parliament. It has been strengthened,” he said.
Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe told Nation Publications said that they have set up mechanisms to help implement the recommendations of of audit reports and these mechanisms will see government taking action against perpetrators.