Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) says it has contained Cashgate, the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill exposed in 2013, through strict scrutiny of government cheques.
Speaking in an interview after a town hall meeting RBM organised in Mzuzu to interact with stakeholders in the city on Friday, RBM Governor Dalitso Kabambe assured the country that the central bank is on top of things when it comes to curbing Cashgate through its system.
He said RBM has given itself an extra responsibility to ensure that no questionable cheque is cleared.
Kabambe said the bank is more careful when it comes to handling of cheques and is no longer operating like any other commercial bank when dealing with government.
Said the Governor: “In the past, RBM used to act just like commercial banks that if people presented cheques they were just being given the money.
“They simply had to fill the withdrawal form and simply because this is the owner of the money, you look at their signature and see the owner is so and so, RBM would release the money.
“We have changed that tradition of being simply a banker to government, a holder of its account. We are going further to check what they are paying for and to check all the attachments that are coming with those payments and additional responsibility that we have given ourselves that we believe that we are checking every single cheque and all its attachments to ensure that there is no pilferage of government resources.”
During Cashgate, RBM was faulted for clearing government cheques without strict scrutiny.
In 2013, the shooting of then Ministry of Finance budget director Paul Mphwiyo led to revelations of the plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
Former president Joyce Banda ordered an audit which British forensic auditor, Baker Tilly, undertook covering a randomly selected six-month period between April and September 2013 and established that about K24 billion was siphoned from public coffers through dubious payments, inflated invoices and goods or services never rendered.
Kabambe said the central bank handles over 3 500 cheques weekly and no cheque has been allowed to go through without being properly checked to avoid a repeat of Cashgate.
He said Ministry of Finance and Accountant General’s office are also playing their part to ensure that there is no abuse of resources. He said with such joint efforts, the bank is comfortable to proclaim that Cashgate was dealt with.
Kabambe said that on a weekly basis, the central bank returns five to 20 cheques on different grounds, including signatures.
RBM director of strategy and risk management Ralph Tseka said the bank has also managed to fight externalisation of Forex and fake notes.
He said the bank successfully prosecuted eight cases and recovered K887million which was forfeited to government.