Malawi president under fire over $330m graft scam

LILONGWE - Malawian President Peter Mutharika is under fire from the opposition lawmakers for shielding cabinet ministers who have been implicated in a $330m corruption scam.

But Mutharika has vehemently rejected the accusation, claiming he did not know names of the implicated ministers.

Leading the bandwagon of those calling for the sacking of the alleged corrupt ministers is opposition lawmaker Kamlepo Kalua, who is vice chairperson of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee.

"The matter is simple. Some corrupt barons embezzled $330m between 2009 and 2014. A recent forensic audit shows among those implicated are seven cabinet ministers. We want them fired," Kalua told News24.

He said the foreign forensic auditors who conducted the audit submitted the names and files of those implicated to the Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Audit Office for action.

According to Kalua, if Mutharika fails to arrest “the thieves in his cabinet”, he should resign as he is not in control of the state affairs.

But Mutharika rubbished Kalua’s claims, saying he could not sack his ministers as he did not have the names.

Mutharika recently challenged Kalua to name and shame the corrupt ministers.

"This lawmaker should bring the names at Kamuzu Palace or he should shut up forever. I sent the Chief Secretary to the Auditor General to get the names and he came back saying there are no such names," Mutharika said.

But Kalua hit back, charging that Mutharika could get the names from Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Audit Office.

"The President is not being honest…. It is a joke for the president to express ignorance on the names," he said.

Kalua added: "Let him follow up with the auditor general because the auditor general said he submitted 13 files to the Anti-Corruption Bureau and out of those files, seven belonged to cabinet ministers.”

Outgoing British High Commissioner to Malawi, Michael Nevin, also bemoaned the higher levels of corruption in Malawi, exacerbated by a culture of impunity.

He told a local paper that the country’s rule of law could be permanently undermined by failure to bring to book those who break the law.

"The cancer of corruption is the most dangerous element that can undermine Malawi’s instability," Nevin said, adding, "Corruption, fraud are not sufficiently challenged."

Besides the current corruption scandal, Malawi is yet to recover from another scam called Cashgate, in which at least  $32m of Malawian state funds was stolen by government officials in just six months between April and October 2013.

Malawi is not the only African nation facing the serious problem of corruption. In South Africa, President Jacob Zuma recently faced public scrutiny over the inflated costs of security upgrades at his private home in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

South African taxpayers footed a R246m bill for the upgrades and some residential upkeep that was unwarranted and deserving of recompense, according to public protector office.

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