Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Malawi: Cashgate Scandal Probe Could Impact Malawi Elections

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Thindwa says it would have been better to ask an independent body to supervise the investigation.

"But as it is, even if the investigators are doing a good job, the mere fact is that the executive - which is part of the suspect - is supervising.

"Not many people will have confidence in the results, particularly if the results tend to be that most of the party functionaries that are being suspected, are getting away with it."

Thindwa says people seem to have lost trust in government and the Cashgate scandal is likely to influence voting because the delivery of public services has been affected.

Business community not impressed with probe

The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), a representative body of the business community, also charges that the government has performed an "unimpressive handling of the Cashgate scandal."

In a statement published in a local daily The Daily Times, MCCCI officials say they are disheartened that the scandal appears to slowly being swept under the carpet. They question whether government intends to protect some suspects.

Two weeks ago, the civil society organization known as the Grand Coalition launched a Black Monday Movement to mobilize a nationwide protest. They asked Malawians to dress in black every Monday to protest the failure of the investigation to meet its November deadline. There have been no reports that Malawians have protested in black.

People's Party's Ken Msonda says the party has not interfered in the Cashgate investigation.

"As ruling party, we have not interfered in the ongoing investigations into the Cashgate scandal. Now, those who are saying the outcome is a little bit slow, they want to force us to interfere in the process of justice, which is not right in the democratic set-up.

"We have allowed the ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau], the police and those involved in the corrupt practice act to work independently without interference from the powers that be."

International donors pull back on pledges

Several international donors recently announced withholding of their portions of the $120-million quarterly aid funding to the government, pending the outcome of the investigations.

Among those withholding development aid funds are the European Union, the United Kingdom and Norway. All are members of coalition called the Common Approach to Budgetary Support (CABS) whose donations comprise about 40 percent of Malawi's national budget.

CABS co-chair Sara Sanyahumbi says donors withheld funding because they had lost confidence in the government's finance management system.

"We have seen serious weaknesses which have enabled people to take money out of government system. While that is the case, you know the donors cannot responsibly continue to put money into government systems. So at the moment, while the investigations are going on we have delayed any funding which was planned to go into government system."

Malawi continues to receive development aid relief from other donors including the United States. U.S. officials said they won't withhold their funding to Malawi because the U.S. funds are project-oriented amounts that are not channeled through government coffers which could fall prey to the looters.

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InFocus

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