Ombudsman Report Faults Councils

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A report which has been released by the office of the Ombudsman says K17 billion funds meant for COVID-19 interventions were used inappropriately by councils with more funds spent on allowances.

The report follows investigations conducted by the office into how the K17 billion COVID-19 funds were used between January and June last year. The report says there were no proper processes to provide checks and balances in the use of the funds.

The report of the systematic investigation which was done in the districts of Phalombe, Zomba, Karonga, Lilongwe and Ntcheu has shown that more funds were spent on sitting allowances rather than the actual procurement of drugs, supplies and PPEs among others.

According to Ombudsman Grace Malera, 30 to 50 percent of the funds initially meant for the COVID-19 fight were spent on allowances where the numbers of participants were inflated in addition to misappropriation and over expenditure of fuel and other resources among others.

The report has also revealed that there was no citizen involvement in how the councils used the funds including weak controls and oversight by controlling officers.

Malera says there is a need for government to come up with clear decisive measures on how it will handle the officers involved.

She says there is a need for a strengthened system of checks and balances and that the Auditor General should follow up on the report with extensive forensic investigations of the findings.

In addition, Malera says the government should review funding modalities and that councils should investigate those involved.

Among other details, the report has shown that Lilongwe used 21 percent, Ntcheu 31 percent and Zomba 43 percent of their allocation on sitting allowances.

The report on how the K17 billion was abused in the district councils follows another report which also showed similar results on how another K6.2 billion of COVID-19 funds were used.

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