Theft of Public Money via Construction Contracts – Malawi

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FROM A PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER’S POINT, SHARED WITH PERMISSION GRANTED

A road built to the highest standards in Malawi would cost about K160m per kilometre at the max nowadays. The K90m per kilometre would be a road where traffic volumes could be very low.

If the road in question is the Lilongwe Old Airport – Kasiya one, then I wonder how they came up with that K39 billion for the 95 km. As a Consultant myself, I would have accepted something like K20 billion. Not that crazy figure. Of course if my memory serves me right, the existing is low and requires raising to fight off drainage problems, but the additional K19 billion would build us another 95km road.

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In Malawi, we don’t buy gravel – which is the main component that will be used to build that road before surfacing. We only buy crushed stone which is used to construct the base. The only cost incurred in procurement of gravel is the mining process and a small compensation fee. If the average hovered at K260 million per km, I would have been more than pleased knowing we are getting a road at the right value. Trust me, a couple of billions will exchange hands at the end of the project. In a situation where Civil Works Contractors compete fairly, MOTA ENGIL would not be ranked the best Contractor, sadly, they are politically appointed. I’m fed up!

Mwamva inu @ Ackson Kalaile Banda, Jeith Mkwapatira Banda, Leon Matanda, Thomas Chafunya, Joloji Salijeni, Alick Kavikumba Nyasulu, Foster F. Fundi, Eisenhower Mkaka, Hon Jacob Hara, Rhino Chiphiko, Juliana Lunguzi and anyone who may share a concern.

A Rotten Society

court-house-25061_1280What does one make of professor Garton Kamchedzera’s claims that Malawi is experiencing a dwindling of legal standards?

Last week, during a sensitisation conference organised by the Malawi Law Society in Lilongwe, the lecturer said

“It is very embarrassing and hurting to hear that some of my former students are implicated in dubious deals which has lowered the public trust on legal practitioners in the country which is one of the oldest and noble professions worldwide due to greed and hunger to make money fast”

During his presentation(titled ‘The Salient Failures of ethics for the Malawian Lawyers: Emerging issues in ethics’ ) at the conference, Kamchedzera said the legal profession was a calling from God, and so legal practitioners needed to be competent and comply with high ethical standards, so as to properly serve the public. He urged vigilance in ‘ reversing the country’s values through our decisive attitudes…’

This is a guy who in the past criticised Ken Lipenga and urged him to step down amidst massive corruption and fraud in Joyce Banda’s government. He has also said in the past that Malawi has leaders who like to be worshipped – an allegation I completely agree with.

What struck me this time around though is that he talked of ‘an already rotten society‘, saying the greedy behaviour of lawyers wouldn’t help fix such rottenness.

I’ve heard too many complaints about legal malpractice in Malawi and if you have dealt with lawyers in Malawi, it’s likely you too have a tale or two to recount, but that’s not what this post is about.

When I hear terms such as ‘rotten society’, the immediate question that comes to mind is not what does he mean by ‘rotten’, but instead, how did such a society become ‘rotten’? And, what’s keeping it rotten?

I’m sure these are questions which some progressives who would like to see a better Malawi will be thinking of. But assuming we all agree on what is meant by a ‘rotten society’, it seems to me that if you ask any knowledgeable commentator about these issues, they will identify one or more of the following as some of the causal factors :-

  1. Governance failures & Corruption since 1994 (Cashgate remains unresolved; Bakili Muluzi’s case has not been finalised; We don’t know the full-scale of plunder during Joyce Banda’s government; there’s a lack of continuity in state projects (the Shire Zambezi project hasn’t been completed); Malawi has in the past hurriedly negotiated resource contracts – which later prove to be flawed, and deprive the government of essential funds)
  2. Lack of discipline and disregard for the Law (Corrupt policing, bribery, rent-seeking, Thuggery, etc) Why would someone steal Solar Panels which are meant to illuminate their city at night (thereby bringing about a degree of safety)? solarLightsFurther, were the culprits of this crime found, and punished? Did the government launch an awareness campaign to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
  3. Lack of Independence of critical institutions (why should the head of the Anticorruption Bureau be appointed by the president? It’s a civil service role, why can’t it be advertised like any other civil service job? Same with the Judiciary, and even the State Banking Corporations [which as the MSB case has revealed were abused to channel money to the country’s then president]. On this point, has an investigation been opened into the affairs of Bingu Mutharika to find out whether what Mulli claims is true? Shouldn’t such an investigation be opened, and be free and fair?)
  4. Poor healthcare (ill-equipped, under-resourced, under-staffed hospitals)
  5. Pull down syndrome, and jealousy (Instead of people working to lift each other up, when one succeeds, they drag each other down). This is closely associated with a lack of a forward-thinking culture. For example since Malawi often has power cuts, how many people have invested in alternative sources of energy like solar? solar-cells-594166_640You may say you don’t have the money to buy them, but the chances are you haven’t even tried saving for them? Frankly, from my experiences many people are happy drinking away and using their money for partying – instead of attending to their problems. poverty
  6. Poverty and Economic stagnation (As a result of lack of money and under-investment in services). One effect of this is that there are so many young people without jobs (prime fodder for criminal activity).
  7. Excessive consumerism of foreign products (as opposed to buying local products, something that could help  revitalise local economies). They want to wear Gucci and drive big and expensive German cars, yet when there’s a fuel shortage (as happened in 2012) they can’t drive those expensive cars. Isn’t it sensible to first work towards a dependable fuel source? To establish a stable economy before thinking of driving a Range Rover? If you have a business, shouldnt you first establish yourself by putting in place measures that will protect the business and give you a breathing space should the worst happen and the market dries up or a much bigger competitor enters the fray?
    Further, when your country is often gripped with forex shortages, shouldnt luxuries take a back seat. And practicality triumph over the need for false appearances? (Malawi’s taste for imports hurting economy )
  8. And a cultural decay (It’s strange how Malawians want to fit in so much with western standards/ lifestyles. Why can’t we embrace our culture, and love ourselves for who we are? Why try so hard to fit into American or foreign cultures?)

These are some of the most common I’ve heard, although I’m sure there are many others.

So the question then becomes, what can/ must be done about them?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers here since money is a big part of the problem. If the government doesn’t have money, or can’t properly prioritize how to use its resources, very little will change.

Having said that, it’s very easy to place blame on the government (its true that they would need to take a leading role – since few individuals have the capacity and capital to orchestrate state-wide projects), but I believe it is the duty of every Malawian to know these lingering problems, and begin working against them on an individual basis. Having an honest, transparent and responsible government would help, but they are only a part of the problem. Having honest, transparent and responsible people is where it all begins.

Quantitative Easing, Grexit and the debt in the Eurozone: Of Botswana, Bushmen and Baboons

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The winners and the losers of Quantitative Easing

Debt and Money are volatile matters. Deal makers or deal breakers. It doesn’t matter whether it’s within families, between countries, between banks or among members of some financial union where the fracas occurs, but when money is involved, a lot hangs in the balance.

When money is misappropriated, people take opposite positions and begin arguing. And when debts are not repaid, or loans are withheld…actually any financially related disagreement, the opinions expressed are often filled with raw emotion; wrath, hate, anger, contempt, apathy, criticism, it’s not rare to see more than just a hint of schadenfreude. Because, well, its money – our survival has been made to depend on it, and so we fight tooth and nail for it. Besides some of us are just too greedy.

This bickering is especially more pronounced online. Behind aliases, nothing is held back; all the bridges are set on fire, insults traded liberally complete with icing, everyone holds tightly to their narrow views, few are available to inject some unifying common sense, courtesy is alien; if these people knew each other, or if they lived in close proximity to each other there would be fights, many fights. Someone would get physical, and at least another would get hurt.

euro-dispI find that in such spheres, the commentary beneath an article can be more interesting than the article itself. And you can probably have your daily dose of entertainment by merely browsing through what everyone thinks of the issue. At least I can.

And you rarely see such kind of raucous debate in real life, other than in silly comic sketches.  But it rarely happens in current affairs programs churned out by the big media houses. Unless you are watching proceedings of the debates in the house of commons. Or pre-election debates – in which case some drama is not rare.

But online, squabbles happen a lot more frequently (as the comments on this link (via FT) / below  demonstrate). The result is priceless:-

101 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  11…the wit. Needless to say my favourites are the two references to Bushmen and Baboons in Botswana. Genius.

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African leaders must stop seeking medical treatment overseas

You can be a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Budhist or Atheist, or none of these, but one thing you will all agree to is this: that there is no justification whatsoever for a leader of a country (his family, his ministers and families) to go overseas to a wealthy country to seek medical treatment, while his country’s people – who elected him to power, and most of whom are poor – make do with underresourced, understaffed and in some cases dangerous hospital facilities at home.

Yet this is what has been happening in Africa for at least 50+ years. Yes, thats right: 50 bloody fat years. Dictators and the anti-colonialist strongmen of the colonial and post-colonial era did it, at considerable public expense. Now their successors – politicians of governments in multiparty democracies who like to dress up in expensive western clothing and are accustomed to lavish lifestyles are doing exactly the same. While their poor countries continue sliding down, becoming poorer.

To the list of Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ethiopia and Zambia, add all the others you know of,  whose leaders are guilty of this behaviour.

Emmanuel Fru Doh, in his book Africa’s Political Wastelands:The Bastardization of Cameroon puts it like this:

‘Another area that shows how a people with resources end up exploited and deprived by their own government primarily, is health. Like Everything else in Africa, the health facilities have continued to shrink such that today one cannot even tell if anyone cares any longer about the system – its perpetrators and the victims, government officials and the public. One cannot help wondering then why all in Africa must keep rotting away in spite of the quality manpower and all else that the continent has to offer in every area of society, if not because of a system of government, borrowed from imperialists, that alienates instead of uniting the citizens. But then it dawns on one again, that this decay in the area of health is the case because the corrupt leaders can afford to fly to foreign nations for medical check-ups while the wretched of their nations are left to make do with sub-standard medical care. Why must a president, his clients, and members of the their families leave their country for medical consultation overseas instead of investing wisely by building and equipping hospitals that would benefit their nations? The answer is simple: most African leaders are not patriots and are unfortunately equipped with a weird sense of self-importance that only has meaning when they see others around them without the facilities they enjoy, albeit criminally in most cases. Ofcourse, but for greed, it would be easy for the World Health Organization and other international institutions making so much ado about helping poor African countries to start by making it impossible for African leaders to get medical treatment anywhere else but in their own countries. …’

Instead of trekking to Asia, Europe or the US for treatment, why not spend your country’s meagre resources upgrading its healthcare infrastructure, so that it is on par or better than the health services in Europe, Asia or the US? If Cuba can achieve that, with all the pressure their economy has been under the last 50+ years, why can’t African countries do the same.

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Surely, medical equipment is not the obstacle, because there are many sources of alternative approved medical equipment which is cheaper yet just as functional as much of the equipment in first class hospitals around the world.

Money also is not the issue because most of these governments lose hundreds of millions (if not billions) to corruption and other factors, meaning the money is there, it’s just being mismanaged.

So what then is the problem? Ian Taylor, Extraordinary Professor at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, writing on the South African Foreign Policy Initiative (SAFPI) website has this to say:

Of the ten African heads of state that have died of natural causes in office since 2000, only two actually passed on in their own countries. And of these two, both had been receiving medical care abroad and effectively returned home to die. In other words, not a single African head of state who has died in the last ten years of natural causes had any confidence in his own country’s healthcare.

The phenomena of African presidents dying abroad is truly a disgrace and reflects the failure of Africa’s leadership to seriously invest in healthcare provision. Quite simply, in many African states the elites have not bothered to provide public health leadership and management, have not invested in sufficient health-related legislation and the enforcement of such laws, have proven inefficient in resource allocation and use, and have systematically undermined the provision of adequate national health information and research systems.

A failure to invest in national healthcare systems has then led to extreme shortages of health workers, exacerbated by inequities in workforce distribution (with a strong urban bias) and subsequent brain drain.

Leaders haven’t bothered to fix hospitals or bring in legislation that will protect those hospitals, to ensure that they are well resourced and well-funded, or otherwise up to scratch. Taylor goes on to note that:-

Rampant corruption in procurement systems and inefficient supply systems then combine with unaffordable international prices to produce shells of “hospitals” where one has a greater chance of contracting something extra than being cured of one’s existing ailment.

So then, why haven’t African people taken their leaders to task about all this? Taylor again:

Elite survival comes from access to rents to distribute to patronage networks and thus retain key support, not on investing in services. Investment in such national infrastructure and the advancement of policies that benefit broad swathes of the population is not required in many of Africa’s neo-patrimonial regimes.

This has a direct impact on policy formulation. Why bother spending money on building and maintaining hospitals (or schools or universities) when one can fly to European hospitals to be treated—or send one’s kin abroad for education? Within the logic of many extant African regimes, it makes no sense to invest in public ventures. That’s what the gullible donors are for!

So African politicians know that even if they don’t fix hospitals or bad infrastructure, so long as they pay chiefs and other power brokers who help them maintain popular support, their hold on power is not threatened. Further, their irresponsible logic takes their people for granted by assuming that donors should be the ones fixing the hospitals?  As if the people in those countries voted for donors…

But if not impunity and contempt for their own people, what else explains leader’s like Mugabe’s  actions (see this silly speech here, which he gave after returning from a holiday in Asia – where he and with his family received medical check-ups and underwent treatment)?

What explains Mugabe’s behaviour when others, including one ZANU PF politburo member and former Midlands governor, Cephas Msipa, have refused to seek medical treatment abroad:

“Do we really have to go outside the country for treatment? We should be proud of our own health care services,” he said during the official handover ceremony of a US$1 million casualty ward at Gweru Provincial Hospital last year. He went on to say that:-

“Our doctors and nurses are capable and compete well with other health professionals in other countries. There is no need for people to go to India and other countries to seek medical attention because our own practitioners are equally competent.”

Now, I’m not saying that circumstances will not arise that necessitate the expertise of an overseas specialist in a particular medical area to be sought. Indeed expertise from specialists in various medical fields must be sought. But that’s not what is happening across Africa.

Another commentator who goes by the name Dr Given Mutinta says that medical trips abroad are ‘used as an opportunity to thank ‘good’ bootlickers to the big shots in government.’ Writing on the Zambian Watchdog he says:

If truth be investigated, how many government officials would want to use personal money to pay for medical treatment abroad when they leave office, if at all they would still have the money they are stealing? Besides, how many before coming into power sought medical treatment abroad? What has changed in the past three years they have been in power that they cannot be treated locally?’ noting that ‘These medical vacations are also a scheme government officials are using to embezzle public fundsan allegation I have encountered numerous times. He poses the question: ‘What are the kingpins at the Minister of Health, Dr. Joseph Kasonde and Dr. Chitalu Chilufya doing to promote local capacity, strengthen the health sector, improve fiscal policy on medical equipment and monitor medical tourism?’

DSC_0005_10I think Africans must ask such questions to their public officials. Upcoming and progressive African leaders need to take note of these repugnant anomalies in African politics, and find effective and sustainable ways of preventing what is not only a wanton waste of public resources, but also a violation of the trust of African people. To do this obviously means enacting legislation that will not only protect the healthcare sector, but will ensure that doctors and nurses are paid living wages that remunerates them adequately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s idea was the Cash-filled Envelope?

Last Tuesday something curious happened at Sanjika Palace. Some Journalists and media personalities were invited to dine with president Peter Mutharika, and sometime towards the end of the dinner, blue envelopes purported to contain a booklet outlining the president’s vision on media freedoms were handed out to the guests. They opened them, and were surprised to find a pen, a blank notepad, and K50,000 (about US$100 ) in cash contained inside another envelope.

Then began the drama. What was the money for? Isn’t this bribery? Wouldn’t accepting it open a conflict of interest? Why were they not told about the gift prior to the dinner? Or when the invitations came? Why did the minister of information,Kondwani Nankhumwa, lie to them claiming the envelopes contained the president’s vision on press freedoms? Should they accept it? Can they return it there and then without offending the president? Should it be declared to their newsrooms, let alone to the public? Also, why in cash, why not a cheque – why does the whole thing appear like some secret thing?

In a poor country such as Malawi, I can imagine some of the journalists had a difficult moral judgement to make.

Some of the journalists decided to keep the money, including Raphael Tenthani, the BBC correspondent (they claim they will donate it to charity – to pay towards the medical bills of another journalist, Limbani Moya, who is undergoing a kidney transplant in India). One or two returned the envelopes that same night, but as can be imagined, the whole thing looked questionable. Among the journalists who kept the envelopes were some who decided that if they returned the money, palace officials would just share it amongst themselves, so they chose to keep the money and donate it to charity.

Over the last couple of days people on social media have debated the issue vigorously, claiming it was bribery, dismissing Peter Mutharika as corrupt. Comparing him to Joyce Banda and Bakili Muluzi. Very strong comments about the competency of the presidency have been made. Prominent Malawian legal practitioner and lawyer, Professor Dr. Danwood Chirwa who is a head of law at the University of Cape Town called the handing out of the envelopes crimes under Section 25B and 26 of the Corrupt Practices Act, and urged the journalists to return the money.

However, the question remains, who came up with such a silly idea?

Who was it that said, you know what we should do, let’s get some journalists together at Sanjika palace, lets give them some food and drinks, the president will make a speech, and answer some questions from the floor, then towards the end of the dinner, we’ll give the journalists $100 each? Who came up with that idea?

Although I doubt it, I’m inclined to ask: was it the president’s idea?

Or was it the minister of Information’s plan? Since he was willing to lie about it, maybe it was his idea? Was it concocted by one of the president’s advisers? If so the fool should be fired forthwith, because the gimmick wasn’t clever. It was stupid, and may have violated the law.

If he won’t be fired, then for his/her own self-respect, the architect of this scandal needs to quietly resign. The Mutharika government must stop churning out flawed gimmicks, as the ones we saw in the previous administration. These are the kind of things which give African politics, and African politicians a bad name. How can Malawi ever develop when we hold onto questionable practices, and when we are willing to violate our own laws, even at the highest office?

Further, what was the whole thing meant to achieve? Seriously, did Sanjika Palace really think that in the current polarised political environment that the issue wouldnt come out?

Remember how quickly Joyce Banda slipped down the route of bad decisions, like allowing the 100 days celebration to proceed at the expense of Independence Day celebrations? And how from there onwards it was all a list of disasters and flawed decisions. The massive devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha, South Korea Labour scandal, Jetgate, Madaonnagate, Cashgate…

Mr President, do yourself a big favour, please don’t go down that route.

 

OECD Forum on Africa focuses on turning uneven economic growth into shared and sustainable economic transformation

 

…It was a day of many harsh truths: “Africa’s 5, 6, 7% growth is all very well, but China has managed an annual 10% for 30 years”, said Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. “We have much further to go. And where does our money go? It goes on things like salaries, overheads, production subsidies – and not where it ought to go. In Nigeria, we are sitting on $25 billion of pension money, which we could be investing in meeting our own infrastructure needs, or in building our manufacturing and processing capacity. We grow tomatoes, and yet we import tomato paste.”

All agreed that the first challenge of natural resource management is to secure its full revenues and to use them wisely and fairly. Government tax revenues from natural resources for 2011 may have been up by 40%, but profits for international companies went up by 110%. This is a huge mismatch. Africa is said to be losing over $60 billion a year in illegal outflows and price manipulation in the extraction of minerals, with most of the proceeds going offshore. The easiest and the worst option for governments is merely to take the short-term rent paid by international companies for the right to discover and develop the continent’s natural resources, rather than do the hard work of creating jobs and ploughing back the proceeds into where they are needed most, in areas like health and education.

OECD Forum on Africa focuses on turning uneven economic growth into shared and sustainable economic transformation

UnlockedMoneySafe: Investigating Cashgate – the twists and turns of corruption in Malawi

I feel sorry for the forensic investigators probing into Cashgate. Each day brings with it a new revelation, scheme or scandal, each day new drama. If it wasn’t the fact that government funds belonging to a country which is regarded as a poor country have been misused, I’d say stop wasting resources on an investigation which you will never fully get to the bottom of. If it wasn’t the fact that it is innocent citizens of a beautiful country who stand to lose out, I’d say give up.

Today another report emerges that the secretary of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Lilongwe, Peter Chinoko (Peter Chinoko is the brave soul who has been attacked and even sustained a fracture in the past for helping organise the July 20 protests against Bingu Wa Mutharika. The same regime that was oppressive against Joyce Banda. When he speaks we must listen) has said that the current president of Malawi, Joyce Banda is implicated in the cashgate scandal.

According to the news report, this is because she organised an inner circle designed to channel funds, following her complaints that she was spending too much of her own money on the PP party. Interestingly, the name of a company I have heard before associated with Joyce Banda (which has been mentioned by several people following the scandal much closely) has popped up yet again:  Veventis Risk Solutions, headquartered in Mayfair, London.

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It’s been suggested before by various people and organisations that there have been attempts to obstruct the investigation into the cashgate crisis in Malawi, including employment of delay tactics, let alone a PR sanitizing machine.

But what concerns me is that with so much speculation on social media, it’s becoming harder to distinguish between credible news and misinformation, more so since the PR machine which is attempting to distort the news, keeps on providing what I consider to be false information. For example, Nyasa times, one of the most popular online Malawian news sources is yet to carry the above allegation??

So, if one reads something online, on social media, as we saw with the revelations of Mphwiyo shooting, there is every chance that the tenets of truth are contained within a pile of speculation, or vice versa, with some embellishments for full effect. Personally, such information, although probably not strictly journalistic, could provide leads to the forensic investigators, on who to interview next.

Anyhow, if you are not familiar with the latest news headlines, see below:

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The troubles facing Joyce Banda are many. Recently, a journalist questioned the statements made by the Malawian President regarding what she reported the IMF to have said about her government’s leadership.

Yet all along, the president has maintained that she is innocent and not a part of the officials who have been embezzling money from the government. In a recent statement to Al jazeera when asked if she has failed with regard to fighting corruption, she said:

“No, we have not failed. I don’t know if you know that this cancer has been going on for 15 years and the biggest tragedy in the fight against corruption is covering up. I think the best one can do as a leader is that once you discover then you need to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Which is interesting because not too long ago an article emerged on Afrol News website (titled Malawi loses US$ 40 million in corruption ) in which Joyce Banda’s own company was alleged to have been paid for work it did not undertake. In particular the article says:

The document alleges that the government has not yet recovered kwacha 13 million in a case where DPP Secretary-General Joyce Banda is said to have been awarded a kwacha 26 million contract to construct a transit depot by ADMARC, the national food security agency, in 2002 when she was a Board Member. The document further reveals that Ms Banda allegedly pocketed kwacha 13 million in advances before commencement of the work.

Unless the document is a fraud, doesn’t this compromise her position even further?

Only time will tell where this goes next, but I appeal to donors and the forensic investigators not to leave any stone unturned. All these organisations whose names have been popping up all over the place should be questioned. There is a shameless and cancerous culture of impunity in Malawian politics that should be ended. Malawi’s money is definitely not safe with the current breed of leadership.

From the politics of chameleons, neatly chronicled by another activist here, to jealousies and a pull-down culture, there is a lot that needs fixing in Malawi. The question is, are Malawians up for the challenge?

Similar links

Whodunnit : Kalambula bwalo

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“By making the government a combination of elected officials and citizen-backed initiatives and referenda, there can truly be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Victoria Stoklasa, Sign It Into Law: How to Put Your Petition on the Ballot

Desperate times call for desperate measures, so the saying goes. Also, it takes a thief to catch a thief, so the idiom goes.

A scandal of rampant corruption on a colossal scale, dodgy deals that swindled millions of dollars from Malawi government state coffers, a mush of top-level fraud, pseudo-mafia syndicates, cover-ups, propaganda, damage limitation and possibly character assassination has been running amok on social media circles lately. The plot, which includes illegal cashing of cheques using ghost companies or companies that did not supply any goods or services to  the government, makes some astounding (but not entirely surprising) allegations and sounds like something out of a Nollywood movie. Or from a wild wild west film. You don’t believe me? Well, for a start take a look at these titles:

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And that’s before we even get to the issue of inflated invoices most recently decried here.

But, but before I continue (and before somebody erroneously labels me a cantankerous and belligerent git beguiled by rumour, speculation or social media chit-chat), I must categorically state that my interest in the story you are about to read is either as a messenger-cum-advocate (writing to advance and improve Malawi’s economic situation by dissemination of progressive ideas, views and inspiration – which probably includes exposing corruption that stands in the way of progress), or as a shocked Malawian national horrified by the scale and proliferation of impunity in government. At least that’s what I think.

I have absolutely no interest in petty fights or trifles, no interest in causing problems for anybody, neither interest nor intention in tarnishing individual reputations, I take absolutely no pleasure in defaming upright politicians or honest members of the public, and will take no responsibility whatsoever over the accuracy of what is handed over to me. I’m only reflecting what I’ve received and have been asked to publish, and should it be false, or not entirely true, I will do nothing other than publish one apology to those aggrieved by the allegations – here, on the same page as the allegation and, if they like, in BIG LETTERS and on a massive RED background, in a number of languages, for full effect:-

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Obviously, anyone sensible never publishes serious allegations without doing some serious research and taking reasonable steps to invite comment or alternative storylines from those that stand accused of the allegations (as far as one is able to). And this I have done, although I must say after waiting for at least 9 days (during which I received no response or even acknowledgement) for the accused to comment, with what others term ‘righteous anger’ building in my loins, I had little choice but to proceed and publish this material.

Also, there is the element of common sense: which thief / conman who hasn’t yet been apprehended by the authorities or the law, and who has their liberty, will voluntarily confess of their thieving in public? That is why in legal circles evidence comes into play, because even if you deny doing it, if there is compelling evidence against you, beyond reasonable doubt, then you my friend are the one whodunnit.

But what if the evidence is fuzzy, or virtually non-existent (except for secret murmurs from fear-struck individuals who want to do what is right, but are afraid of the consequences)? And what if the conman happens to be cunning enough to cover up most (thankfully not all) of their tracks? Further, what if some of those accused are cagey about what happened (akin in opacity perhaps to the responses of US bank chiefs, when asked what they did with the bailout billions in re Troubled Assets Relief Program)? Also, consider the scenario whereby the ‘conmen’ are infact a sophisticated syndicate that includes powerful individuals within the Malawian government? Does the Malawian public still deserve to know of the allegations made against the public officials? I’ll let you think about that for a moment…

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So, after much soul-searching and indeterminate hours of painful research, telephone calls and discussions with legal types, hitting several dead ends and encountering various versions of the same story (an exercise that brought to mind the irreconcilable contradictions within the Biblical gospels), I have decided that the material I hold on the Mphwiyo shooting is plausible, of journalistic significance and squarely within the public right to know. After all, much of it is already on Facebook, and this will give those without a Facebook account a piece of the action.

Further (and please feel free to excuse any appearance of narcissism here), because well-known portals for aggrieved citizens to report the wrongdoings of their governments – such as Wikileaks – are often under siege/ attack (by, surprise surprise, government agencies) and burdened by other more spurious global matters (Edward Snowden affair, Julian Assange embassy hideout et al), it may not be too bad an idea to carry their mantle (in this regard that mantle is probably only a small scarf/handkerchief) a short distance, shedding light onto corruption that has been happening in recent months in more lowly places such as in the country of Malawi.

Thankfully, there are other warriors in this battle: The Chief Mourner is one, so is Billy Mayaya, Henry Kachaje and many other honourable and brave souls. I say Kudos to them all, no doubt, they have their own reasons and motivations, possibly agendas, definitely intentions for doing what they do, and you can ask them this, but I will not pretend that I know for sure what those intentions are, except to say that they wish the best for Malawi.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * The Background  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

While there has been both a positive (http://world.time.com/2013/09/15/malawi-official-who-fought-graft-shot-wounded/ ) and negative (http://www.nyasatimes.com/2013/09/18/smokes-and-mirrors-unpacking-the-paul-mphwiyo-saga/  ) picture painted of the budget director Paul Mphwiyo, who was recently shot outside his home, and according to news reports because he was close to exposing corruption in top government circles, a credible source reveals there is more meat to the story.

* * * * * * * * The Story – the allegations  – translated into English and with minor edits-  reference date: 17th of September 2013 * * * * * * * * *

Recently Paul Mphwiyo instructed his Budget Section to fund the Pensions Section with K450million (£ 842,239.46). Because Pensions is called Below-the-line account or in other words a Statutory Account (like miscellaneous deposit or the Presidency account) which means Auditors cannot question the Funds flow in these accounts since they are statutory, Mphwiyo took advantage of this loophole.

In a bid to either please or deceive the presidency, he was informing the Secretary to the Treasury that somehow the money will find itself in the hands of Peoples Party (PP) for their election Campaign. Mphwiyo shared the money with another gentleman; one Mr. Madzi (who apparently is the Chief Accountant in Accountant General’s office). This man was given K200million (£374,164.30) and he is the one who is keeping the ‘fund’ and distributing it amongst accomplice officers at the Accountant General’s office, while Paul Mphwiyo is keeping K250million (£ 467,688.20) to distribute with accomplices including officers at the Treasury. So this idea that Mphwiyo was fighting corruption is entirely false. It appears to be a carefully crafted lie designed to either cover up or distort the real truth.

Actually, for this issue to be uncovered there was a spat within the ‘corruption syndicate’ at the Accountant General’s office, as those involved began arguing as to how the funds will be divided amongst them, until Mr. Madzi suddenly took a holiday (‘bed leave’) the whole of last week. Predictably, some of the disgruntled officers began ‘talking’ threatening that they will out the accountant, including names of ghost pensioners they collectively used to make payments to, to embezzle the money out of government coffers.

My source tells me this is the third time that K450 million has been transferred from government accounts.  And interesting this is the third month that Government Ministries and Departments in Malawi have had only half of their budget funded. The excuse that was provided for the August transfer of K450 million was that there was the SADC Conference that needed to be funded.

And remember the K120 million which Patrick Sithole was arrested for several days ago? (http://www.nyasatimes.com/2013/09/11/malawi-public-servant-arrested-over-k120-million-cash/ ) Well, that’s related to this scandal because Patrick Sithole worked at Accountant General’s office in the reconciliation section. Here, he was responsible for accounting reconciliation on the books from all the government Ministries. He had access rights within the government accounting system known as IFMIS, which is used in all the Ministries. Because of having such access, temptation and excitement got the better of him and he began doing unauthorised deals and transactions. In order to get money out, he needed to find companies that were willing to receive money in seemingly ‘normal looking’ transactions, but from which he would be paid a cut, dividing the funds with the owner of the company. Unfortunately, he began to ask too many people to be accomplices in his fraudulent activities, and this exposed him as word travelled around as to what he was actually doing. With such rumours circulating, a man by the name of Pika Manondo (a man with connections to Ralph Kasambara – which Kasambara denies) approached Sithole, and gave him company names, so that they could be doing the fraudulent deals together. My source informs me that they have been embezzling governments funds for quite a while now and Pika Manondo (who was in fact fired from his role at Parliament because of fraud) has become incredibly wealthy such that he has K350million   (£ 654,982.14) in his bank account and owns a 15 vehicle car hire company. This wealth appears to have been accumulated from since the time Ralph Kasambara was appointed into government. So these deals extended to Ralph Kasambara and Wapona Kita (not least because some people knew that one day they will need legal protection).

These deals also involve companies belonging to Maxwell Namata (who was fired from Ministry of Housing due to fraud) [see different story implicating Namata’s company here: http://www.nyasatimes.com/2013/09/19/acb-arrests-2-public-servants-on-fraud-over-k70m/ ] and Mr Hophmally Makande’s protégés??

The Problem then arose about how they will be getting funds to fund Government Ministries which then can be used to process cheques to the Companies. That’s when Ralph Kasambara approached Paul Mphwiyo as Budget Director (because it is the budget section in the Ministry of Finance that does the funding in the IFMIS system) to help with the deals. Paul Mphwiyo is not at all a clean man, and it’s only a matter of time that these investigations reveal this very fact.

In actual fact, the Toyota Fortuner which was found at Patrick Sithole area 47 residence when he got arrested, and in which they found K80 million (£149,692.71), belongs to Paul Mphwiyo.

So, for a while these deals have been going on ‘smoothly’ but of recent, Pika Manondo, Ralph Kasambara, Hophmally Makande and Maxwell Namata (as owners of companies) were not happy with how the division of funds was going. And what happened was that A WEEK BEFORE Sithole was caught, armed thugs with guns raided Sithole’s house and stole K62million (£ 119,753.14). Some insiders say it was Max, Pika and Ralph who sent these thugs to Sithole’s house. The theft can be verified with LINGADZI POLICE STATION because Sithole is said to have reported the theft to police. This also explains why Wapona Kita rushed to defend Sithole. Which is why Ralph Kasambara was so concerned that he decided to go to Paul Mphwiyo and the Reserve Bank, as Government cheques are effectively cleared through Reserve Bank of Malawi using Commercial Banks as agents.

When Paul Mphwiyo heard this, there was an argument and he began threatening Pika, Maxwell Namata, Ralph and Hophmally that he would out them unless the thugs should return the money to Sithole. Mphwiyo said he didn’t care of the consequences because after all he was not the one who personally was affecting the fund in the IFMIS system; instead it was his junior officer.

This is where things went horribly wrong, there was anger against Mphwiyo, and one night the following days, Wapona Kita and Ralph Kasambara went to the house of Paul Mphwiyo to warn him that he could be killed because Maxwell Namata, Pika Manondo and the likes of Makande were not happy. This is what led to Mphwiyos shooting and people at the Ministry of Finance know this. In fact quite a good number would be willing to verify this information in confidence, if it wouldn’t threaten their jobs and lives.

As of 18th September 2013 Pika Manondo is in South Africa and Maxwell Namata was also in South Africa, but on a trip connected to China. However, some people believe a South African assassin has been hired to kill Mphwiyo, and his life is currently in danger.

*********************************The Response********************************

Ralph Kasambara and Wapona Kita have denied the allegations, and called them defamatory and malicious. They say these allegations come from people who wish them ill. In particular on Sithole’s K120 million case, Kita said while he is involved, it is not true that the instructions for him to represent Sithole in the case came from Kasambara as alleged. Further, Kasambara dismissed the allegations, saying  he has never been to the Budget Director’s office or his house, and Mphwiyo’s CCTV [which we can assume wasn’t tampered with] can prove this.

But it remains to be seen how true some of these allegations are, more so since Pika Manondo has now been put on Interpol’s wanted list. If the above story was entirely false, how has Manondo ended up on an Interpol wanted list?? :

manondo

[**** UPDATE -30 SEPTEMBER 2013MAXWELL NAMATA ARRESTED **** like above, if this story was entirely false, how has Namata been arrested in connection with these allegations?]

Some people are concerned that this may just be damage limitation and that Manondo the scapegoat may take the lashes which others duly deserve. However since police investigations are ongoing, this remains to be seen.

A different version of the story (with some similar allegations and naming similar characters)  appears here, on Maravi Post, titled “Marapost enquiry on malawi budget director shooting that triggered donor’s response-friday”. [Update 5th October 2013 – Theres another branch (one of many branches that show the workings of the syndicate) to the saga (now aptly named ‘Cashgate’) here. the K4.2 billion mentioned on this link is equivalent to £7,114,875.55 (Seven Million Pounds) – a hefty sum by any measure]

Whichever of the two versions is the most accurate or closer to the truth, donors are already calling for a swift probe into the matter, and have even offered help. In the interest of transparency and ‘clean hands’, president Joyce Banda would have been wise to take this opportunity to give donors unfettered access to all aspects of this case. Such an action would to an extent help restore public faith in the presidency

These are worrying developments that potentially risk Malawi’s stability, rule of law and reputation,” reads a statement signed by the British High Commissioner Michael Nevin, USA’s ambassador Jeanine Jackson, the head of the EU Delegation Alexander Baum, Germany Ambassador Peter Woeste, Iceland’s Maria Erla Marelsdottir, Ireland’s Liz HigginsJapanese Envoy Fujio Samukawa and Norwegian Mission Head Asbjorn Eidhammer.

As the drama was unfolding, president Joyce Banda (whose People’s Party (PP) is implicated by the allegations in that some of the money was allegedly meant for financing PP’s 2014 election campaign) was on another trip, this time in the US, in Austin, Texas where she even managed to find time to stop by a church, en route to giving an address at the 68th session UN General Assembly. The allegation against PP has a bit of a flavor of the troubles facing Afghan president Hamid Karzai, whose brother (more allegations here), is said to have embezzled US$1 billion from Kabul Bank (in which the brother is a minority shareholder). Part of the funds were said to be for financing Karzai’s re-election. Further, it is said Afghanistan loses 25% of its GDP to corruption, a curious percentage when we’ve just been informed by Malawi’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)’s director Justice Rezine Mzikamanda recently that Malawi loses 30% of budget money to corruption.

The question remains where exactly is that money going? And why are those responsible for the embezzlement not brought to book sooner than later?

Despite her assurances that her government is committed to combatting fraud, I wonder how this scandal will play out if indeed there were some people in her party who were in complicity with the swindlers, as the allegations seem to suggest. Will Joyce Banda sack them? How so, when the likes of Ken Kandodo or Khumbo Kachali, who themselves have also had some serious allegations made against them, got to keep their jobs? And if those officials get to keep their jobs, what will have become of one of the world’s most powerful black women, as she is fondly described in some quarters [see Forbes link here]? Word in the grapevine suggests that a cabinet reshuffle is imminent.

But since it’s doubtful whether any thief can voluntarily repent, and since in ages past people in positions of authority have been known to use their influence and power to cover-up wrongdoing (see the experiences in Kenya here and here), if what really happened in this scandal is not unfurled by independent parties unconnected with the wrongdoing, only time will tell whether these allegations hold water, or are in fact false. A complete fabrication. After all, it was only many years after Dr Kamuzu Banda lost power that the scale of misappropriation of public funds that occurred under his watch was revealed. Same story for aChair, same story with Bingu.

Madame President, some of us may have liked the way you began your presidency, but what’s happening now stinks! It stinks a lot. And believe me you, if you do not do what is right to clean up your government, your day of reckoning may be a lot more damaging than that which hit aChair, or what Bingu’s estate is currently going through.

God bless you all, God bless the Republic of Malawi.

***Update 30 September: Maxwell Namata Arrested ****

****** Update 2 October 2013 – Civil Society Organisations threatens to urge Malawians against tax payment: Gives JB 30 days ultimatum  ******

*** Anti Corruption Bureau Arrests man that got paid K1bn ($2.5 million) without having a contract ***

***Update 8th November : Pika Manondo Arrested ****

*****Update 9th November – Former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara Arrested  via Voice of America *******

*****Update December 30 – Kandoje outsted as Malawi Accountant general over cashgate – redeployed *******

****Update 24th January 2014 – STRIPPING PRESIDENT **** NAKED, SEE HOW SHE STOLE YOUR MONEY MALAWIANS *****

****Update: 27th January 2014 – Former Malawi Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara re-arrested *******

***** Update 30th January 2014 – Pika Manondo Spits Fire, Says president Joyce Banda is shielding Big Fish in Cashgate *****