MALAWI President Lazarus Chakwera (pictured) has fired Labour Minister Ken Kandodo after an audit report implicated the minister in the unlawful use of 613,000 Malawi Kwacha (about $778) of Covid-19 funds on a foreign trip.
The president made the announcement in a televised address Sunday evening following the release of the audit report on the abuse of $7.87 million that the government released in August 2020 to government ministries, departments and agencies to help fight Covid-19.
Following local media reports that the Covid-19 funds were being abused, Chakwera suspended dozens of controlling officers, including district commissioners and chief executive officers, across the country in February, before he ordered an audit of the funds.
The audit report, which has just been released, found senior government officers and the private sector to have been involved in the plunder of up to $1.3 million of the Covid-19 funds through procurement and allowances irregularities, among others.
According to the audit report, among those implicated in the abuse of funds is the labour minister, who ‘borrowed’ from the Covd-19 funds an equivalent of $778 for his allowance on a foreign trip.
‘As for the minister of labour, who was named by the audit report as having spent Covid-19 funds amounting to 613,000 Malawi Kwacha on his allowances for a foreign trip, I have dropped him from my cabinet accordingly,’ Chakwera said in his Sunday address.
‘Even though the minister has since returned the money, his usage of the funds means that the money was unavailable for its intended purpose when it was needed most,’ the president said. ‘I cannot have in my cabinet any individuals who spend money budgeted for one thing on something else.’
Chakwera said the audit is only the beginning and that similar audits will be conducted into other funds spent on Covid-19 before he took office, as well as into other public funds spent by various institutions.
‘I want all the thieves hiding in the civil service to mark my words: If the finger of evidence points to you as one of the thieves who stole Covid-19 money for saving lives while hundreds of our people were dying, you are going to prison,’ he said.
The government will use the relevant laws to ensure that the culprits pay back what they stole, Chakwera said.
The president has ordered the suspension without pay of public officers on whose direct watch the financial mismanagement occurred.
The Malawi Police Service has made 13 arrests of senior public and private individuals in connection with the abuse of the Covid-19 funds.