ACB to probe K1.2bn Mombera University fraud

ACB to probe K1.2bn Mombera University fraud

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has launched an investigation into alleged fraudulent activities in the construction and running of the Mombera University project where about K1.2 billion is said to have been abused.

The probe comes after what authorities describe as ‘fruitless’ outcomes of criminal investigations launched by Malawi Police Service into alleged fraudulent expenditure of public funds on operations of the Mombera University project after an audit report showed that K1.2 billion could not be accounted for.

The initial investigation followed an alert by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), through its whistle-blower initiative, for the graft-busting agency to investigate the matter after allegations of plunder of resources.

Chizuma: Bureau reviewed complaint

In a letter addressed to HRDC, ACB director-general Martha Chizuma said the bureau contacted the National Audit Office (NAO) to look into the matter and received a response; hence, the decision.

Reads the letter in part: “The bureau reviewed the complaint and made referral action to the Auditor General to institute an investigative audit into the matters to inform the bureau’s next course of action.

“The bureau has now received investigative audit reports from the office of the Auditor General and has completed an analysis of findings and recommendations contained therein. Further, you are

informed that the bureau will proceed with further investigations into the issues surrounding Mombera University.”

In an interview yesterday, HRDC deputy chairperson Michael Kaiyatsa, while commending the ACB for the move, urged speed on the matter, saying, it was “long overdue”.

He said: “We expect that the investigation would be expedited to pave the way for criminal proceedings against all those involved in the plunder. It is sad that investigations into such abuses often take forever, which perpetuates a culture of impunity and corruption.”

Director of Public Prosecutions Masauko Chamkakala said the investigations by police did not yield anything.

He said: “The starting point is that National Audit Office report figure [K1.2 billion]. All the investigations will do is to verify the extent for purposes of possible criminal prosecution. The figure might go up or down whichever way the investigations lead us to, that’s what we will pick up in the end.”

The said request to police by Chamkakala’s predecessor Dr Steven Kayuni, came after a NAO audit into government ministries, departments and agencies for the year ending June 2020 showed that the Ministry of Education failed to account for about K1.2 billion expenditure on Mombera University.

In the 2023/24 National Budget, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Sosten Gwengwe said government has allocated an initial K5 billion towards the university located in Mzimba.

Mombera University, which President Lazarus Chakwera renamed Inkosi M’mbelwa University, is among high profile projects the Tonse Alliance committed to pursue. It was initiated by the Democratic Progressive Party administration.

In 2018, government budgeted K72 billion for the project. Currently, its most visible structures are a tarred road and an incomplete entrance with corresponding walls that briefly stretch out a few metres.

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