Weekend Nation has seen and verified a list of 20 bank accounts and their names that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is probing as part of the cash-gate crackdown.
Of the 20 frozen bank accounts held at FMB, eight either wholly belong to businessperson Oswald Lutepo as an individual or he jointly owns them with partners.
The remaining 14 firms belong to various entrepreneurs, according to information contained in letters that ACB director Justice Rezine Mzikamanda has sent to various banks.
Lutepo’s two personal bank accounts, both under his name, are held at FMB.
Details of the other companies—according to information from the Registrar General—that Lutepo has business interests in and which the ACB is investigating are as follows:
International Procurement Services (IPS) with registration number 87745 and Osward Fywell Gibson Lutepo as the owner.
IPS was the beneficiary of the K1 billion that an accountant in the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), Chazika Munthali, allegedly made through the now discredited Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) through which government has lost tens of billions of kwacha.
Munthali was arrested by the ACB early this month.
O & G Investments, with registration number 95303 and Osward Lutepo as the owner.
Woget Industries, whose registered owners are Osward and Getrude Lutepo.
Heart Freight (Reg No: 65453) with Osward Fywell Gideon Lutepo as the owner.
The Spare Giants & Stationers (Reg No: 89613) with Osward Fywell Gideon Lutepo and Getrude Kapesa Lutepo as owners.
Lutepo, who is the ruling PP deputy director of recruitment and sensitisation, is still at large and police are frantically looking for him.
At National Bank of Malawi (NBM), ACB has frozen accounts for eight companies as follows:
Kanengo Building Contractors (Reg N: 6616) belonging to Ndaona Satema & Leah Satema.
Visual Impact (Reg No: 56727) belonging to Tressa A Lumbeje Namathanga (Mrs. Senzani), the principal secretary in the Ministry of Tourism arrested this week in connection with the Capital Hill cash-gate.
Walusako General Dealers (Reg No: 120328) belonging to Zimukulire Mwenechanya and Julia Banda.
Clive Engineering Co. (Reg No: 87732) owned by Dennis Mwezi Mhango.
Zozama Civil Engineering Contractor Reg No: 59723 belonging to Mkhuzo James Chirwa.
Sky Civil Engineering (Reg No: 79644) owned by Steven Golden Mwenitete.
Vhaima General Dealers (Reg No: 137432) belonging to Asif Abdul Razzak.
Megan Constructions (Reg No: 61646) owned by Doreen Nyirenda & Khumbo Mkandawire.
At FDH Bank, the ACB has frozen the following accounts:
Stadal Building Contractors (Reg No: 94555) belonging to Stafford Mpoola and Dalitso Mpoola
Faith Construction (Reg : 86932) owned by Angella Katengeza.
Protem Civil Contractors (Reg No: 129701) run by Cecilia Mervis Ng’ambi.
Another company whose account has been frozen, but whose owner we could not independently verify is Pawooh Logistics.
These are the names and companies of which are mostly in Lilongwe that the ACB, in conjunction with police and Ministry of Justice, are still investigating to find out why and how they kept huge amounts of money in their accounts amounting to over K100 million (US$270 270) for most of them.
“Some of the companies such as Lutepo’s cashed amounts is in excess of a billion kwacha in single transactions and that’s what we are interested in and trying to track,” said a source close to the investigations.
Justice Minister Fahad Assani has come out with guns blazing, warning that the investigations will target even the private sector and will spare no one.
On Monday, Vice-President Khumbo Kachali also promised that government will not leave any stone unturned and will extend the forensic investigations back to 2006 when things started to get out of hand.
Yesterday, The Nation reported that new details have emerged that authorities instructed some commercial banks to honour all government cheques from any of their branches for any amount without any limit on behalf of the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM).
This aspect of the Ifmis-induced cash-gate puts the country’s central bank under microscope as the nation grapples to understand how tens of billions of public funds could be cashed so easily and with such reckless abandon without RBM raising eyebrows during the transaction and as it was refunding overdrawn balances to commercial banks.
A change in payment policy—according to an interim report from a Treasury-sanctioned investigative audit of Ifmis done between 2011 and 2012 by the National Audit Office (NAO)—appears to have created fertile ground for the looting that saw roughly K90 billion abused between 2009 and 2012 through the system.
Most recently, the looting led to the arrest of some civil servants caught with millions of cash in their bank accounts, sometimes in their homes and even in their cars.
In 1995, government had introduced cash rationing—a system anchored on the principle that government could only spend what was collected—to restrain ministries and departments from overspending.
While the move had mixed results, it did not lead to the free-for-all pilferage that got pronounced with the coming of Ifmis.
Indeed, once upon a time, government used to have Credit Ceiling Authorities (CCAs), which could limit the extent of payments and check excesses.
But the NAO report suggests that CCAs stopped in 2005 when government rolled out the Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis).
The absence of CCAs may have left room for rogue civil servants and their private sector partners to siphon limitless sums of money out of government even when no goods and/or services were ever delivered.
It does not matter whether the budget line does not have money or whether the pay cheque issued is way beyond the annual budget allocation for a ministry or department: the money is always paid.
This is because at the time CCAs were abandoned, said the NAO report, government also issued a directive to commercial banks: A government cheque should never bounce at the bank.
This directive may have blown wide open whatever screws may have been left of sound Public Finance and Economic Management (PFEM).
It is a policy directive that the NAO audit says significantly contributed to the looting, now dubbed cash-gate.