By Pilirani Kachinziri:
Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has recovered money and assets in excess of K700,000,000 from Cashgate convicts and secured 19 convictions since the trials started in 2013.
In 2013, Financial Intelligence Unit estimated that money in excess of K20 billion found its way into pockets of a few civil servants who took advantage of weaknesses in Integrated Financial Management System, a scandal which became known as Cashgate.
A forensic audit established that an equivalent of 32 million United States dollars was syphoned from October 2013 to March 2014.
ACB Senior Public Relations Officer, Egritta Ndala, said recovery of assets and funds remains a challenge because not all of them can be traced.
“The bureau may have so far recovered money and assets in excess of K700,000,000… [But] it is important to prevent corruption as that is the only way of ensuring that the resources are used for intended purposes,” she said.
Ndala said the bureau has so far secured 19 convictions in relation to Cashgate cases which were prosecuted by the bureau.
Those convicted include civil servants and proprietors of private firms which were used in the syndicate to syphon money from the government coffers.
“There are two other cases which were prosecuted together with Director of Public Prosecutions. There are still nine cases involving 25 suspects in court at various stages,” Ndala said.
She said the bureau had no separate budget for trial of Cashgate cases.
“The bureau makes provisions in the budget every fiscal year for the prosecution of cases, be it Cashgate-related or not. As you are aware, the cases do not go to court at the same time. That makes it a lot easier on the budget since the money is not supposed to be provided in a single year,” she said.
Ndala said the prosecution budget this year was K101, 787,832.00 and this included both operations and other recurrent transactions.
“This is [an] approved budget but funding depends on how much the government has to disburse to various government department ministries and agencies,” she said.
Ndala said the challenges faced during the prosecution of Cashgate and other corruption cases include delays as corruption cases compete with other cases for time in the courts.
“The delays, sometimes, lead to loss of memory by the witnesses. Some witnesses, as well as suspects, may also pass away before the prosecution is concluded thereby affecting the course of the prosecution case,” she said.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation Executive Director, Timothy Mtambo, commended ACB for the secured convictions and the money they have recovered so far.
“For now, it is commendable that ACB has been able to do that. We need to recover our money and put it to good use but they need to pull up their socks,” he said.
Mtambo, however, said there is need to find a mechanism to ensure that people are updated on its use.
The then ruling People’s Party (PP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) found themselves in the spotlight, with members of both parties accused of pilfering public funds.
Investigations revealed the Cashgate thefts had been going on since at least 2006, at which time DPP was in power, leading Malawi from 2004 until the death of its leader, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, in 2012. Both parties vehemently deny such accusations.
The scandal led to the withdrawal of direct budgetary support to Malawi from international donor agencies.