Malawi president fires minister over COVID-19 funds

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Apr 19 2021 08:03 AM | Updated as of Apr 19 2021 08:46 AM

In this file photo taken on June 20, 2020, Malawi’s main opposition Malawi Congress Party, MCP, Leader Lazarus Chakwera who is leading the Tonse Alliance in the Presidential elections due on June 23, arrives at Mtandire locations in the suburb of the capital Lilongwe to hold his final rally. Chakwera on June 27, 2020 was declared winner of this week's presidential election re-run with 58.75 percent of the vote according to the electoral commission said. Agence France-Presse

LILONGWE, Malawi - Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera on Sunday fired Labor Minister Ken Kandodo for diverting $800 worth of Covid-19 funds to pay for a government trip, part of a wider embezzlement scandal.

In a televised address to the nation, Chakwera said the minister was named in an audit report as having listed the funds in his allowances for the travel to South Africa.

"I have dropped him from my cabinet accordingly. 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," Chakwera said.

"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."

Chakwera also ordered the arrest of scores of civil servants implicated in plundering $7.8 million of Covid-19 funds.

"As I speak, over a dozen individuals suspected of committing the crimes exposed by this audit report have just been arrested by the Malawi Police Service. There are no sacred cows... There will be more arrests," he said.

Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, has recorded 34,000 cases of Covid-19, with 1,138 deaths, including those of two cabinet ministers.

Its under-resourced public hospitals were overwhelmed at the peak of the pandemic.

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© Agence France-Presse

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