CHAKWERA CLEARS RUBBLE IN FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19 PANDEMIC
President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera fired the Co-chairperson of Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, a group
that was established to lead in the fight against Coronavirus pandemic. Chakwera has also suspended the cluster
heads following the Covid Gate amounting to 6.2 Billion Kwacha meant to combat the pandemic.
Speaking during the sixth national address at Kamuzu Palace on 14th February 2021, President Chakwera said he has fired Dr John Phuka as Co-Chairperson for Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 and replaced him with Dr Wilfred Chalamira Nkhoma. Chakwera also removed the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DODMA) Commissioner James Chiusiwa.
“Last week, I expressed my outrage over the alleged abuse of funds and lack of financial accountability by certain clusters entrusted with 6.2 billion Kwacha for tackling the pandemic. This has been done due to the clusters failure to maintain proper records of how such critical funds were used and others for defying my directive to submit
reports weekly to my office,” he said.
A report on the abuse of the funds was released by the Office of the Ombudsman in November 2020 after investigating the matter. The President later gave the heads of the clusters and controlling officers 48hours to appear before the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 with reports on how they spent the 6.2 Billion Kwacha
The cluster heads however submitted reports which were described as substandard with no backup documents. The presentations were made on 9th February 2021 to the members of the Task Force that included its Co-Chairpersons Dr John Phuka and Khumbidze Kandodo who is also Minister of Health, Minister of Finance
Felix Mlusu, Minister of Information Gospel Kazako, Minister of Education Agness Nyalonje, as well as leader of
opposition, Kondwani Nankhumwa.
During the address, the President said, “It has been evident that many clusters are poorly led and require corrective measures. All cluster heads, with the exception of one, submitted reports with no backing documents. They were told to go back and bring the documents.”
“These are reports of money that was mostly spent last year, whose backing documents ought to have been maintained regularly as a matter of best practice, and cluster heads appeared before Taskforce showing clear signs of negligence and lack of preparation,” headed.
“What has happened is the same as defying a presidential directive to submit reports on a weekly basis, there is no cluster that is blameless,” said Chakwera.
Dr. Chakwera has nevertheless said some of the suspensions will pave way for a full forensic audit, which the
National Audit Office has already begun. he has also requested for a full and independent investigation, which the
Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has requested the Malawi Police Service to conduct as a matter of urgency.
The President further said the major problem that the country is facing is abuse and theft of public resources in
general which is beyond Covid-19 funds. “If we are going to root out the problem of waste, abuse, and theft of public resources, we must admit that these are behaviors that have poisoned our values as a nation and have corroded our entire government system. In fact, over the past 27 years, the Government system has been rigged with bad or old laws, procedures, policies, and contracts that are cleverly designed to not only facilitate waste, abuse, and theft, but to also protect those who engage in these acts from being fired or prosecuted,” he uttered.
The K6.2 Billion was among others meant to buy Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and other necessities.
In response to hospital needs for medical medication and equipment to combat the pandemic, a France based
Malawian Onjezani Kenani came up with an initiative to raise funds to be used in taking care of COVID-19 patients.
By mid-February, the renowned writer and commentator, through this initiative, raised about 70 million Kwacha for procurement of oxygen cylinders for use in hospitals. The gesture was applauded by many Malawians.
“We have created a board of three people including the president of the Society of Medical Doctors in Malawi, to oversee all the expenditure of all the funds raised,” Kenani said.