Ombudsman report reveals misappropriation of Covid-19 funds

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A report released by the Office of the Ombudsman has revealed that a huge amount of the K17 billion funds meant for Covid-19 response was used for allowances.

The report has also revealed the there were no proper processes to provide checks and balances in use of the funds by councils.

Ombudsman Grace Malera said this following investigations conducted by her office into how the funds were used between January and June last year.

She said the systematic investigation which was done in the districts of Phalombe, Zomba, Karonga, Lilongwe and Ntcheu has shown that more funds were spent on sitting allowances rather than the actual procurement of drugs, supplies and protective equipment.

Malera said that 30 to 50 percent of the funds initially meant for the Covid-19 fight were spent on allowances where the number of participants were inflated in addition to misappropriation and over-expenditure on fuel among other things.

The report has shown that Lilongwe used 21 percent, Ntcheu 31 percent and Zomba 43 percent of their allocations on sitting allowances.

Malera added that in some councils, one person was receiving allowances for 20 people while some were given allowances without attending activities.

One of the examples in the report reads: “Cheque number 23590 for MK2, 820, 000.00 shows that it was payment for stationery. A scrutiny of the supporting voucher for this cheque showed that out of the total figure of MK2,820,000.00, the sum of MK2, 000,000.00 was for allowances, MK400, 000.00 was for transport refund, MK200, 000.00 for hotel charges, MK120,000.00 for refreshments and only MK100, 000.00 was actually for stationery.”

The report has also revealed that there was no citizen involvement in how the councils used the funds including control and oversight by controlling officers.

Malera has since urged government to come up with clear decisive measures on how it will handle the officers involved.

“There is a need for a strengthened system of checks and balances and that the Auditor General should follow up on the report with extensive forensic investigations of the findings,” said Malera.

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