Malawi president cleans house, sacks entire cabinet over ‘Cash-gate’

| October 17, 2013
Malawi President Joyce Banda

Malawi President Joyce Banda

(GIN)—Madame President Joyce Banda of Malawi took a figurative broom to her ministers and sacked them all for their alleged roles in a corruption scandal dubbed “Cash-gate” by media.

Banda, like her counterpart in Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been battling entrenched misuse of office by government officials. At a cabinet meeting last week, Banda reportedly told ministers she had lost faith in the lot of them.

“It is obvious that huge amounts of public funds have been lost through corruption and theft within the public service, and regrettably this still continuing,” Banda said in announcing the mass layoff although it was later reported that most of them were reassigned to new posts.

Among the 25 cabinet members fired was the finance minister, Ken Lipenga who had been leading a high-profile delegation to meetings with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. His dismissal was expected because “he was at the center of fraud and cooked revenue figures at the treasury,” said analyst Ernest Thindwa.

According to local reports, upwards of $3 million was taken from state coffers. Ten government employees were arrested while nine senior police officers were jailed in another fraud. The budget director, on the eve of revealing a major corruption ring, narrowly escaped death in an assassination attempt.

In the history of plunder from government coffers, Banda’s predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, stands out for increasing his personal wealth in eight years from $1.5 million to $175 million. Bingu, as he was popularly known, had been an economist at the World Bank in Washington and worked in the Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In a speech recently, the president credited the police, the Anti Corruption Bureau and other government agencies for “uncovering and intercepting large amounts of cash in homes, offices and in the trunks of cars of some individuals in the civil service.”

While Banda, 63, has set up a special unit to audit state finances, she hasn’t agreed to calls by donors, which fund about 40 percent of the budget, to enlist foreign investigators.

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Category: Africa Briefs

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