The Corruption Bureau (ACB), has vowed to determinedly probe transactions which suggest President Peter Mutharika might have benefitted from K145 million that a supplier allegedly deposited into a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) account that has the President as the sole signatory.
But presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani said the impeachment call is baseless since Mutharika was not at fault.
Kalilani said Pioneer Investments merely donated to the party; hence, this does not make the President an accomplice to the alleged corrupt practice.
The matter came to light last week after a leaked document— which ACB has not disowned— indicated that the money could be part of proceeds of payment from the Malawi Police Service (MPS) to Pioneer Investments which has been under the radar of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament for some time.
ACB suspects that the firm, owned by businessperson Zameer Karim, fraudulently supplied food rations to MPS where the bill was inflated from the actual contract price of K2.327 billion to K2.8 billion following a letter that Karim wrote MPS, then director of finance, Innocent Bottoman, on August 4 2015.
In an interview yesterday, ACB Director General Reyneck Matemba regretted the leakage but vowed that there is nothing that will stop the bureau from getting to the bottom of the alleged fraud.
He said: “One way or the other, the leakage will affect our investigations because it has happened before we concluded the investigations. What has been circulating is just a preliminary report. We will continue to investigate the matter and conclude as soon as possible.”
Matemba admitted that the leakage will pile pressure on both the bureau and witnesses but maintained that ACB is determined to ensure a logical conclusion is reached.
He said the leakage happened even before ACB’s internal processes were concluded.
“But that has happened and we cannot continue to cry over spilt milk. We have to move forward,” Matemba said.
He added that if necessary, arrests will be made after investigations are concluded.
The ACB boss said they are encouraged to see that the presidency “is also keen to see the logical conclusion of the investigations” following reports that Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani declared that Mutharika has nothing to hide and that he is calling upon the ACB to thoroughly and professionally investigate the transaction.
Initially, Kalilani had claimed that the leaked document was some mere fabrication by a disgruntled politician. This was despite that ACB had not disowned it.
Among other things, the report recommended that Bottoman and Karim should be prosecuted for allegedly defrauding the Malawi Government and acquiring proceeds of crime totalling K1.4 billion and forging and uttering false documents.
The report, dated May 4 2018, indicates that Pioneer Investments won a tender to supply 500,000 ration packs to MPS for a total contract sum of K2, 327,087,500. The contract was signed on August 4 2015.
Exactly six days after signing the contract, Karim wrote Bottoman requesting an upward adjustment of 20 percent on the grounds that the Malawi kwacha against the dollar.
However, according to ACB, between August 4 and 6, the kwacha had only depreciated by almost two percent and not the claimed 20 percent.
The report goes on to say that on August 12, 2015, Bottoman, on his own and without approval by an internal procurement committee, approved the 20 percent adjustment, raising the contract amount by K466 million.
According to the leaked document, a day after Karim had deposited K2,793,087,500 to his account at National Bank, after obtaining the money using MPS as a guarantor, he issued a cheque of K145 million in favour of the DPP account whose sole signatory is Mutharika.
Both Bottoman and Karim claimed to have no knowledge of any fraudulent transactions in the contract.