Malawi’s President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera has fired his labor minister and arrested 19 officials for fraudulent use of funds meant to fight the coronavirus. The arrests came after an audit revealed Malawi officials used millions of dollars in funds for their own expenses. Political analysts say the firing was less punishment than a means to deter other fraud.
In a televised national address Sunday evening, the president said the firing, and arrest of 19 other officials, was to show that no corruption would be tolerated.
Visibly angry, Chakwera warned that anyone connected to fraudulent use of the $8 million fund would face consequences.
“So, I want all the thieves hiding in the civil service to mark my words: If the finger of evidence points to you as one of the thieves who stole COVID money for saving lives while hundreds of our people were dying of COVID, you are going to prison,” Chakwera said.
A Malawi police statement released Sunday night said those arrested would face charges, including “theft by a public servant,” and could be punished with hard labor if found guilty.
“Even though the minister has since returned the money, his usage of the funds means that the money was unavailable for its intended purpose when it was needed most. And I cannot have in my Cabinet any individuals who either spend money budgeted for one thing on something else or do not ask tough questions to ensure that the money they are spending on something was budgeted for that purpose,” he said