LILONGWE-(MalawianWatchdog)—The Judiciary, one of the arms of government, which is responsible for making sure that Malawians are conducting themselves according to the Constitution, has been embroiled in a shameful act of corruption and abuse of power by embezzling money amounting to K124 million, Malawian Watchdog understands.
The nasty conduct was exposed on Wednesday when Controlling Officer for the Judiciary, Agness Patemba and her team were thrown out of a Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PA) meeting after failing to bring with them objective material evidence to back the use of K124million as fuel allowances for staff in 2012/13 financial year.
The audit by the Nation Audit Office revealed abuse of payments through allowances, dubious fuel allocations in the judiciary amounting to K16, 391 589. 40.
Apart from K16 million audit questions, the audit also revealed there was payment of fuel allowances not accounted for worth K7.2 million bulk purchase of fuel not accounted for amounting to K85.6 million.
Records submitted to the committee show among other questions concerning mismanagement non-maintenance of fuel ledgers worth K28.9 million purchases; not recorded in stores ledger worth K20.million ; unsubstantiated fuel refund worth K1. 5million; fuel not accounted for through log books amounting to K2.3 million and unsubstantiated refunds worth K8.9 million among others.
The Auditor General Stepheson Kamphasa faulted the Judiciary for not following procedures for management of fuel expenses, saying “there was no record of fuel allowances spent.”
The Judiciary officers were called to PAC to respond to audit queries.
Appearing before PAC, Patemba led a delegation which included chief accountant and deputy sheriff of the High Court, and she conceded that the payments were “mistakenly charged to wrong budget lines” contrary to Treasury instructions.
Patemba, who is acting registrar of the High Court of Malawi and Malawi Supreme Court for Appeal, told the committee the Judiciary requires that officers sign for the fuel allowances in cheque register book.
“There is no requirement for production of receipts,” she said.
She said Judiciary officers failed to obtain receipts because some trips were made in rural areas which did not have service station and they conveniently paid allowances rather than topping up fuel cards
But PAC led by its chairperson Alekeni Menyani were not convinced with the explanations, saying they needed evidence that indeed the money was spent on fuel for official duties.
“We need to put a stop to this; as a committee of Parlaiment, we are at pains to accept this ,” said Menyani.
“When you don’t explain an expenditure, there is a consequence for that.”
Menyani said the evidence they needed was “vehicle log books where the mileage was entered to correspond with the fuel requested.”
He said if they fail to account for the funds, they should “pay back this money to Malawians.”
A member of the committee, former Minsiter of Health Peter Kumpalume said explanation by Patemba was not plausible to justify for flouting public finance management regulations.
“The Judiciary will have another date to submit their evidence of the fuel expenditure,” the committee deputy chairperson Kamlepo Kalua said.