By Mabvuto Banda
More arrests in the cashgate scam are in the offing as the new administration steps up investigations to get to the main players and beneficiaries, Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale disclosed, warning that no one will be spared if found to have participated in the looting of public funds.
Kaphale, who lauded the former administration for building the foundation to fight cashgate, said in an exclusive interview with Reuters that “there is renewed political will to make more arrests, focus on assets recovery to recover the proceeds of the crime.”
“They [Joyce Banda government] did lay the ground, I mean credit be given to them… I don’t think one would want to trash everything they did, they did lay the ground because they was a great measure of work done in investigative work, quite a lot was unearthed, but we believe that a lot more needs to be done, and that I think will have to lead us to who the main players in the game were…” Kaphale said.
Under President Banda, more than 60 people were arrested, among them Ralph Kasambara, former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, who is now on trial for money laundering. Kasambara is also facing charges on the attempted murder of Paul Mphwiyo, the Budget Director shot three times last September and left for dead.
The cashagate suspects were accused of exploiting a loophole in the government’s payment system – the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS). In addition to the cashgate transactions, Baker Tilly, the British bean counters found that payments without supporting documents accounted for an additional K4 billion and supply contracts that had been inflated by K3.6 billion.
All in all, according to Baker Tilly, the state was defrauded of about $32m, almost 1 percent of Malawi’s annual GDP, in the six months between April and September 2013.
Kaphale said that Mutharika’s administration has stepped up the pursuit of the criminal cases against those accused of embezzling public funds.
“It’s all about cashgate prosecution, cashgate prosecution, we need to recover the funds, we need to set a precedence as well to serving officers and businessmen out there that crime doesn’t pay, and that we should all as Malawians live in an ethical culture where people do not ever imagine that there can be some free money collected from government – people must work and earn their money, this is very, very high on our agenda…” he said.
“There are no scared cows…I mean if people took part in the criminality or benefited from it or kept some of the proceeds of the crime, the arm of the law will have to reach to them and they will have their day in court,” Kaphale said
Joyce Banda’s administration’s stellar beginning was tarnished by cashgate, which was discovered when Mphwiyo was shot three times and left for dead by unknown assailants last September.
In the wake of Mphwiyo’s attempted murder, police raids targeting several senior and low-level public officers uncovered wads of cash hidden in their cars and homes. Banda responded by sacking her cabinet and the Anti-corruption Bureau, working with police, confiscated wealth that could not be explained and sealed off mansions that belonged to humble government clerks.