Malawi: HRDC Gives Chakwera 21 Days to Release K6.2bn 'Covidgate' Report or Face Demos - 'Talk Is Empty, Act!'

11 April 2021

Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has given President Lazarus Chakwera 21-day ultimatum to release an audit report on the expenditure of K6.2 billion Covid-19 funds.

HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence has said if government does not comply with the ultimatum, the coalition will mobilise Malawians to be on the streets to hold mass demonstrations nationwide.

"As per order from the President, the audit report should have been out by now after the lapse of the 30 days period.

"Our worry is that presidential orders in this country are just being defied. This administration came in on a pledge of openness. We want the truth to come out on how the funds were used otherwise we will mobilise Malawians to protest," said Trapence.

Minister of Information Gospel Kazako said the audit report was finalised and the Auditor General submitted the final copy to the Secretary to the Treasury.

However, Traopence said if by 21-days the report is not released "HRDC will just announce the date of the demonstrations."

In an editorial comment, the Nation on Sunday noted that Chakwera is growing into a President who believes some problems under his nose can be wished off just like that.

"This is not a moment to drag your feet Your Excellency. You have pushed goal posts on the Cabinet promise you made. You have delayed awards to health workers in the fight against Covid-19. Your indecisiveness on the impasse on teachers' risk allowances is, to say the least, unfathomable.

"Promises are empty. Talk is empty. Act, Mr President," the editorial reads in conclusion.

Pressure had been mounting on President Chakwera to prove how the millions set aside for planning and public awareness, facilitating the return of Malawians from South Africa, border patrols and supporting victims of gender-based violence was spent.

The social justice and human rights campaigner Idriss Ali Nassah was among those who called for proof the money was being used for the intended purpose.

The revelations that the money might have been abused caused outrage. Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition (MHRDC) released a statement saying it was disappointed at the apparent failure to account for the resources.

Chakwera, a former Pentecostal church pastor, ordered the office of the Auditor General to investigate how the funds were used by various clusters.

He said: "If we are going to root out the problem of waste, abuse and theft of public resources, we must admit that these are behaviours that have poisoned our values as a nation and have corroded our entire government system."

But governance expert Happy Kayuni said the Chakwera administration has missed an opportunity to demonstrate its seriousness on critical matters.

"Apparently, this administration is good at making promises but delivering very little. The danger is that citizens will not take the government seriously next time," said Kayuni in quotes reported by Nation on Sunday.

He said the current situation has serious implications on legitimacy and trust.=

"Government must therefore not take for granted people's goodwill. The administration must stop playing with peoples psychology. The President made a bold statement and this an opportunity for them to show they are serious," he said.

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