The 145m is ours, Mr President!

Hon Folks, having admitted receiving the so-called K145 million gift from a supplier of food rations, APM, through his spin-doctors, engaged the over-drive in damage control.

They told Malawians there was nothing sinister about the donation and portrayed APM as a victim of a smear campaign. Essentially, they tried to make the public see the whistle-blower as the bad guy.

I beg to differ. This wasn’t a secret worth keeping. It’s graft with the hallmark of Cashgate.

Maybe APM was indeed a victim, especially if he just got the “gift” without the knowledge of who the benevolent donor was and how the money was raised. That won’t be known unless ACB or the Director of Public Prosecutions have APM’s goodwill to prosecute the case without let or hindrance.

But the damage control effort should’ve at least have acknowledged the real victim here–it’s not APM who got out of it K145 million which, we are told, is for construction of the DPP headquarters.

The victim is us, Malawians. It’s our hard-earned tax money that was siphoned from government coffers and purified through the banks.

Again, for this to happen, there was an unscrupulous supplier working hand-in-hand with influential people inside APM’s government, a betrayal of the worst kind which, audit has shown, has hit us since 2009.

As citizens, we pay tax through the nose so government can provide us with public goods and services, not for the governing party to build its offices.

We lifted the obligation of catering for party needs off our shoulders when we voted for multiparty politics in 1993. Now, only parties meeting a certain threshold of seats in the National Assembly get some funding from government.

Other than that, all parties are on their own, free to raise funds as long as such funds are legit, not hot.

The K145 million a supplier of food rations stashed into DPP’s account for which APM is the sole signatory didn’t come from his pocket. It came out of government coffers, the leaking bucket. Here’s how.

According to ACB, the supplier used the Police—the agent of the State which procured the food rations—to act as a guarantor for a bank loan.

This happened six months before the supplier won the tender to supply the food rations.

By implication, public funds were being committed as security for the bank loan when there was no deal whatsoever between the Police and the supplier. The double-whammy effect of it is that it also rendered the tender process which happened half a year later a stage-managed circus. The successful bidder was already known.

The second intrigue is that having won the tender on the basis of being the lowest bidder at K2.327 billion, the supplier, obviously with the help of government insiders, tweaked the bid price to K2.8 billion—making it the highest bid by far—six days later on the false premise of adjusting for a 20 percent currency depreciation.  The actual depreciation was by a mere 1.6 percent!

The third intrigue is that having pledged to pay the supplier through the lending bank, the actual payment was made a year or so later through another bank, allowing for several things to happen.

One, a day after the government cheque was deposited, the supplier drew from it K145 million which he paid into the DPP account domiciled at another commercial bank.

Two, the supplier again demanded about K600 million extra to cushion for a loss in value of the kwacha. What a rip off!

Three, the supplier defaulted on the loan for which the Police acted as a guarantor.

Predictably the duped bank is now on government’s neck, dragging the Attorney General to court, demanding from government settlement of both the principle and interest!

Whether the supplier eventually repays the loan or not is of little consequence. The fact is that this far, the burden of paying for the gift DPP wrenched out of the bedeviled deal rests on the weary shoulders of the taxpayer.

Failing to see this point clearly is the reason why APM said there was nothing sinister about the so-called K145 million gift to his party. It can only be called a gift by ignoring the traits of fraud in the manner it was generated.

The so-called gift is tax-payers’ and could better be used to construct a solid school block the walls of which cannot easily fall and kill our children while they are at school, learning.

It could  be used to procure drugs or food for patients in hospitals. It could be used to run police patrol vehicles to enable the law enforcers to rush to trouble spots when we are attacked. It could be used to deliver any worthwhile public goods or services.

It’s not for the construction of DPP headquarters. Since some unscrupulous supplier divert public funds to such a project, the right thing for APM to do is to give back our money.

The rest is for ACB and DPP.

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