Malawi leader ,president Peter Mutharika, has come under fire for seemingly denying that there has ever been Cashgate on Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s watch, including during the era of his brother Bingu wa Mutharika.
In his address at Habitat ground in Mzuzu yesterday after touring upgraded feeder roads in the city, Mutharika said he was aware that his administration is accused of being the most corrupt in the country’s history and that it is selective in its prosecution of suspects of Cashgate—the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill exposed in 2013.
Said the President: “I know my government is being accused that it is the most corrupt government in the history of this country, but I don’t think so. There was Cashgate and we are doing our best to make sure that we take care of Cashgate cases.
“Some are saying we are selective and that we are targeting people of a certain political party. [But] the truth of the matter is that when Cashgate happened, there was a particular political party [People’s Party-PP] that was involved with some business people and civil servants in corruption.
“So, I have to go after those people. I can’t go after United Democratic Front [UDF], Democratic Progressive Party or Malawi Congress Party [MCP] just to make sure that I am not being selective.”
In response to The Nation inquiries on their understanding of the President’s remarks, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) and a University of Malawi (Unima) Chancellor College-based political and administrative issues analyst Mustafa Hussein faulted the President for declaring that his government will only prosecute Cashgate cases that happened during the two years of Joyce Banda’s rule between April 2012 and May 2014.
In an interview, MLS president John Suzi-Banda said Malawi is losing the fight against corruption, adding: “There is bankruptcy of leadership in the fight against corruption. The efforts are half-hearted and lukewarm.”
In an e-mailed response, Suzi-Banda said the investigative and prosecutorial authorities have the duty and the responsibility to investigate and prosecute each and every allegation of corruption no matter who allegedly committed it.
He said: “I am not sure the President is being properly advised on these issues. In truth, his position is not well grounded in the law and strange to common sense. I hope he will revisit this. As MLS, we have said and we will repeat, Malawi is losing the fight against corruption.
“The institutions that are mandated to fight corruption have systematically been weakened and the officers charged with these functions are highly compromised. I think every well-meaning Malawian knows this. Those that can dispute this either don’t know what is happening in their own country or are benefiting from these criminal activities.”
Suzi-Banda said the political will to fight corruption is almost non-existent and challenged the citizenry to demand their stake in the wealth and future of Malawi.
On the other hand, Hussein said Mutharika’s remarks were not only surprising, but also sent wrong signals to donors who have tried hard for the country to get rid of corruption.
He said: “If the fight against corruption is to be won, we must ensure that justice prevails on all cases. There is already that K577 billion report, and those cases cannot be washed away. Let the law take its course. Many people, including donors would be interested to know the truth.
“If there is to be justice, all cases involving corruption have to be treated equally. It is surprising really.”
According to Hussein, the fight against corruption requires, among others, political will and said Mutharika’s remarks therefore send wrong signals on how government is approaching graft issues.
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 led to revelations of the plunder of public resources later called Cashgate.
Then president Joyce Banda ordered a forensic audit which British firm Baker Tilly undertook, covering the six-month period between April and September 2013.
The audit established that about K24 billion was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.
In May 2015, a financial analysis report by audit and business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) also established that about K577 billion in public funds could not be reconciled between 2009 and December 31 2014.
However, the K577 billion estimated in the PwC report was revised downwards to K236 billion in a forensic audit conducted by RSM Risk Assurance Services LLP of the United Kingdom in April this year.
In his address, a visibly charged Mutharika also challenged the citizenry, civil society and foreign nationals who criticise him for his stance on the fight against graft, that none of his Cabinet ministers are mentioned in the K236 billion forensic audit report covering the period between 2009 and 2014.
Said the President: “Let me say this in English so that Malawians and foreigners who live or work in this country and criticise my government understand on the alleged seven ministers. There are no seven ministers, I asked Accountant General, Anti-Corruption Bureau [ACB] director, and there are no seven names.”
Mutharika also challenged the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament to proceed and investigate the wealth of his brother and former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika. He said PAC needs to establish the truth, and stop torturing his family. n