#Malawi finance minister faces calls to resign over graft at treasury

Malawi’s finance minister Ken Lipenga is facing calls to resign his position after last month’s shooting of his budget director followed by revelations of massive pilferage of public funds amounting to over K1.2 billion (over $4 million) from treasury.

Paul Mphwiyo, appointed as budget director by President Joyce Banda early this year, was shot three times and left for dead as he drove into his residence in Lilongwe.

Since the shooting, a joint investigation by the Anti-Corruption Bureau and police, has since implicated the budget director himself, some unnamed minister, in a racket that was looting public coffers through dubious payments in billions.

“At first we gave the finance minister 30 days in which to resign…but we think this is too much because all this has happened on his watch and he has to resign immediately,” said John Kapito, a leading activist.

“If he doesn’t do that, we will ask a mass action and force the whole government to resign like in Egypt,” warned Kapito who was one of the leaders that organized mass protests two years ago against late president Bingu wa Mutharika that left 20 people dead.

So far, five junior officers in the public service have been arrested after being found with a lot of money hidden in their cars and houses.

Two proprietors of the companies were the money was being transferred into, have since run away and have been put on Interpol wanted list.

President Banda on Wednesday warned that she was not going to spare anyone implicated in the scandal that has angered the country’s western donors and the public atlarge.

Leading opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) also asked President Banda to force her minister to resign and asked her to arrest senior members involved in the scandal at treasury and other government departments.

“People have lost confidence in her leadership and the best thing she can do is to order the arrest of senior officials involved and ask her finance minister to resign,’’ said MCP President Lazarus Chakwera at a public rally over the weekend.

Last week eight western donors asked President Banda to deal with the alleged corruption at treasury and investigate the shooting of the budget director.

“These are worrying developments that potentially risk Malawi’s stability, rule of law and reputation…We urge swift and credible investigations that leave no stone unturned, allowing the investigating authorities to act without fear, intimidation or hindrance,” read a statement by the eight envoys.

Reports of increased corruption in the public service have angered a lot of people and may be a huge block on President Banda’s re-election next year.

“She has to act and show that she is serious about fighting corruption or this may affect her chances of winning next years’ elections,” said Blessings Chinsinga a political lecturer at the university of Malawi