Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera has fired the heads of his government’s Covid-19 taskforce, with a warning that “no penny meant for saving lives will be stolen, abused or wasted”.
The President, who is a former Pentecostal church pastor revealed that he has fired the Head of the Disaster Management Department and the taskforce’s co-chair. He also said he has suspended officials, some “for failing to maintain proper records of how such critical funds were used and others for defying my directive to submit reports weekly to my office.
“The suspensions will pave the way for a full forensic audit, which the national audit office has already begun, and a full and independent investigation, which the Director of public prosecutions has requested the Malawi Police Service to conduct as a matter of urgency.
“Every Covid-19 death is tragic and to be mourned, and, although it is God who ultimately has power over life and death, the deaths that are preventable are even more heartbreaking.”
Pressure has been mounting on the 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 being spent.
According to the President, only one cluster head was able to submit documents backing up reports on how they had spent the 6.2bn kwacha ($8 million) he allocated in August for tackling the pandemic.
“All cluster heads, with the exception of one, submitted reports with no backing documents and had to be told on-site to bring backing documents. Mind you, these are reports of money that was mostly spent last year, whose backing documents ought to have been maintained regularly, and yet cluster heads appeared before my taskforce showing clear signs of negligence.”
The revelations that the money might have been abused has caused outrage in the country. Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition (MHRDC) released a statement saying it was disappointed at the apparent failure to account for the resources.
“Equally shocking is the information that in the north, places such as Songwe, Chitipa and several other borders have never had patrols since July 2020. One wonders: what did the department of disaster do with the K580 million it spent on border patrols?”Malawi Human Rights Defenders Coalition
President Chakwera intimated that the heads of Covid-19 clusters would be required to submit a weekly report of their expenditure, “and I will immediately deal with any cluster that fails to do this.
“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.”
The President also announced the country will receive 100,000 additional AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines secured through the African Union this week for the protection of health workers. He said this consignment for health workers is different from the 1.5 million doses arriving at the end of the month for the general population.
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