Nation Publications Limited (NPL) editor Ephraim Munthali and former bureau chief for Lilongwe Mabvuto Banda have become joint inaugural winners of the Excellence in Reporting Corruption award for their article which exposed siphoning of government funds in the Ministry of Tourism.
The award, which was part of the Misa Malawi annual awards, but was not given out due to other reasons, was sponsored by the British High Commission in Malawi.
The story exposed how senior civil servants connived with private companies to steal millions of kwacha through the ministry in a phenomenon that became widely known as Cashgate.
A forensic audit which followed the exposure and arrest of suspects revealed that K13 billion was lost from government between April and September 2013.
After receiving the award, Munthali thanked NPL for publishing the articles surrounding Cashgate, saying the role of the media has never been more important than now.
On his part, Banda asked the British Government to continue supporting the media to carry out investigative journalism in the country.
“But we shouldn’t leave donors to push this. The media needs to continue querying any type of corruption, let’s interrogate the numbers,” he said.
Speaking at the award ceremony on Thursday, British High Commissioner Michael Nevin said without the media, there would have been little progress on Cashgate, but noted that there remained a need to continue reporting the scandals beyond court cases.
“Cashgate still represents an opportunity; a chance to send a message that Malawi does not tolerate corruption, no matter who is involved. An opportunity to really clean up and get to the core of how corruption works here. To put in place robust measures that will protect government’s financial systems, ultimately keeping safe the public’s money,” said Nevin.
Misa Malawi chairperson Anthony Kasunda congratulated the award winners but appealed for more support from various stakeholders in empowering reporters with the necessary skills and resources to carry out good investigative stories.
The award winners carted home trophies, laptop, professional Nikon camera and lens, digital satellite television equipment, an HD TV, wifi router with a three month subscription, among others.