23 January 2018

Malawi: PAC Quiz Ministries Over K55m Audit Query On Mutharika's UN 'Jamboree'

Controlling officers in two ministries told Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that they had allocated unauthorised expenditure amounting to K55 million to finance the expenses for the annual ritual of the President attending the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York in 2015.

President Peter Mutharika had a bloated delegated of 100 people for the UNGA 2015 trip and government spend about K500 million in travel and accommodation expenses and allowances.

PAC met two ministries; the Information and Communication Technology and Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism to scrutinise and seek clarification on audit queries for the 2015/16 fiscal year won misallocation of expenditures of K46.6 million and K4.9 million respectively, charged to items not related to UNGA trip.

The controlling officers used the President's trip to the UNGA as justification for spending millions of taxpayers' funds without seeking the approval of the Secretary to Treasury as the law provides.

"The K46.6 million was spent without Treasury authorisation to finance VVIP [very very important persons, mostly the Presidency] functions that are mandated to provide," said Principal Secretary (PS) for Ministry of Information Erica Maganga.

She said necessary supporting documents such as payment vouchers were issued and "all accounting procedures were followed."

The government uses UNGA trip in New York, United States of America to reward political loyalists, traditional leaders and other hand-clappers to the ruling party and the funds in question were used to foot expenses for such groups.

Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa queried PS Maganga why authority was not sought for using the funds.

Maganga said it was not possible to plan for all VVIP functions.

Director of information in the ministry of information Gideon Munthali said the unauthorised expenditure in the audit query was on UNGA and vice president's local and foreign trips.

While Secretary for Industry , Trade and Tourism Ken Ndala said the K4.9 million unauthorised expenditure in his ministry was used to facilitate travel for three officers who attended the 2015 UNGA, saying the President might have requested Trade officials to travel to New York and they looked at the trip at "short notice."

Malawians were infuriated with Mutharika's having a jamboree delegations up to 80 per cent did not add any value to the team's work at the assembly.

Commentators say there ought to be some measure of accountability and responsibility on the part of Malawi delegates.

Others protested that members of Mutharika's delegation were using taxpayers' money to enjoy themselves in New York while Malawians back home where reeling under a heavy tax regime and economic turmoil.


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