About K350 million meant for disaster related activities in the past two years cannot be accounted for, an audit report shows.
The Auditor General’s report, issued May 23 2019 on public funds expended on disaster in 2016/17 and 2017/18 when Malawi was hard hit by floods, drought and fall army worms, shows no supporting documents for multi-million kwacha purchases.
In 2017, K29.3 million was spent for the purchase of relief items, but there is no evidence that the said goods were delivered, the report says.
It also states that payment vouchers for various items amounting to K3.3 million do not have supporting documents such as receipted vouchers for audit, making accountability for cash that was drawn difficult to authenticate.
The Department of Disaster Management (Dodma) also spent another K3.3 million to purchase rice, detergent soaps and spaghetti which were damaged or had expired before delivery to prospective beneficiaries.
K41.5 million is said to have been used for fuel, but the report says Dodma did not submit monthly returns to the audit team, making it difficult for auditors to ascertain the claim.
The report also questions the veracity of a claim that K33.4 million was used to refund the Malawi Embassy in South Africa for catering for Malawians affected by xenophobia attacks.
An examination of the National Disaster Appeal Fund payment vouchers, bank statements and cash books, according to the report, shows that the funds were indeed transferred but the audit team could not ascertain whether the money was deposited in its designated foreign mission accounts.
Another audit report for 2017/2018 shows that DoDMA purchased various goods for K103.8 million but there was no evidence that the goods were delivered as there was no record of the goods in the stores ledger at the intended destinations.
An education specialist observed that the funds which cannot be accounted for are enough to build 116 classrooms for community day secondary schools or buy 7 770 locally made desks for secondary schools.
The funds are also enough to cover the full cost of education for 2 692 secondary school students. Malawi mostly relies on support from development partners and other well-wishers during disasters but some of the funds are budgeted for in the Unforeseen Expenditure vote as DoDMA.well as through direct budget to
While admitting the missing of funds, Dodma’s spokesperson Chipiliro Khamula claimed the department was not given time to respond to the audit queries.
Said Khamula: “Since the queries were already published in the Auditor General’s report, we will appear before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament to give our side of the story.”
But the National Audit Office (NAO) has dismissed Dodma’s claims that they were not accorded time to respond to the queries, arguing that they follow all procedures before publishing such reports.
NAO spokesperson Rabson Kagwam’minga, in an interview on Thursday this week, explained that audited institutions are always allowed to give responses during exit meetings.
Asked what control measures are put in place to ensure that funds are not prone to abuse, the DoDMA Khamula indicated that among others requests for payments are supposed to go through a rigorous compliance test for certifying before payment is made.
Reacting to the unaccounted for funds, Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy (Cepa), a think tank and advocacy institution promoting sustainable environment and resources management, warned that this may lead to erosion of trust from development partners who usually render support in times of disasters.
Cepa executive director William Chadza feared that donors may not be willing to channel their resources through public institutions.
“It is ironical that a lot of resources made available for response interventions are not put to good use yet DoDMA complains of [shortage of] resources to invest in risk management measures,” said Chadza.
This week DoDMA indicated that the country needs about $350 million (K270 billion) for recovery from effects of the March floods that killed 60 people, displaced 87 000 others and damaged infrastructure worth billions of kwacha.