22 February 2013

Mozambique: Investigations of Fraud Extend to Finance Ministry

Maputo — Investigations into the massive thefts uncovered in the Mozambican Ministry of Education suggest that the fraudulent scheme must also have involved staff of the public accounts department of the Finance Ministry, according to a report in Friday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.

The investigations undertaken by the Central Office for the Fight against Corruption (GCCC) are also looking at the public accounts department, since no Ministry can pay wages without that department authorizing the payment.

So somebody in public accounts must have checked the wages sheets that the Education Ministry sent for authorisation every month. In other words, officials in the financial department of the Education Ministry could not have committed the fraud on their own.

The fraud took the form of submitting a duplicate, fictitious wages sheet in addition to the real one. The money was then transferred to bank accounts controlled by those who were running the fraud.

It is unclear how many staff in the public accounts department were involved in the fraud – this is one of the matters still under investigation.

It is far from clear exactly how much money went missing. The initial denunciation, in an anonymous letter sent to the media, was that two million meticais (about 66,500 US dollars, at current exchange rates) was siphoned out of the Ministry’s coffers every month.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Augusto Jone told reporters that the fraud had begun in 2006, and involved around 144 million meticais. But on Wednesday Ministry spokesperson Eurico Banze, addressing a press conference, put the amount stolen in 2012 alone at just five million meticais.

A key figure in the scheme is a man named Sende, who was responsible for drawing up the monthly wages sheets, and for coordinating with the public accounts department and with the Ministry’s bank.

When the fraud was discovered in December, Sende vanished from sight. Although there were reports earlier this week that he had reappeared, the “Noticias” story insists that he remains a fugitive.

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