Malawi Government has launched investigations into illegal payments made to high ranking public officers over the years. Those found to have pocketed money outside their contracts are being asked to pay back or face prosecution for abuse of office and other charges.

The Ministry of Finance and the Department of Public Service Administration confirmed the move in separate interviews this week, but offered few details.

Among the top officers said to have been found receiving payments outside their drawn contracts so far are former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Perks Ligoya and Lilongwe City Council chief Kelvin M’mangisa who allegedly pocketed K24 million (about $96 000) outside his 36-month contract covering March 2009 and February 2012.

We have also seen communication to the effect that Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) director general Charles Nsaliwa is among the other executives that were paid allowances outside their approved consolidated packages.

But both the Macra board and the secretariat say Nsaliwa’s allowances, although outside the contract, were approved.

Secretary to the Treasury Radson Mwadiwa on Thursday confirmed that Ligoya has been asked to pay back some money.

“His salary was enhanced above what the board had approved and we have since asked him to pay back the difference during the period he got paid [the amount],” said Mwadiwa.

He, however, declined to disclose how much is involved, saying the Department of Public Service Administration may be better placed to provide the figures.

We could not get hold of Ligoya as his phone went unanswered. Our text messages containing our queries were also not responded to.

Ligoya replaced commercial banker Victor Mbewe in September 2009, but President Joyce Banda sacked him in May this year before his five-year term run out. We could not immediately establish when Ligoya started receiving the enhanced package.

On Thursday this week, Principal Secretary for Public Service Administration Sam Madula also declined to reveal the amount of money involved in Ligoya’s case, but confirmed that the former Governor and many other heads of statutory bodies, who received more than what their contracts stipulated, have been asked to return the money.

Meanwhile, documentation we have seen shows that Nsaliwa collected nearly K1 million (about $4 000) in telephone allowance arrears last year despite getting a monthly allowance of K100 000 (about $400) to cater for telephone bills consolidated in his K1.148 million (about $4 592) salary.

The documents also show that on April 8 2011, Macra paid Nsaliwa K959 323.90 (about $3 837) telephone arrears.

Four days later, Nsaliwa collected the cheque and signed for it, according to a company cheque requisition we have reviewed.

The arrears dated from seven months – December 9 2009 to June 30 2010 totalling K700 000 (about $2 800). The other period he was paid for covered eight months from July 1 2010 to February 28 2012. This totalled K1.5 million (about $6 000).

Macra, however, deducted a TNM bill of K129 537 (about $518) and 30 percent tax to arrive at the K959 323.90 that he ended up collecting.

But Ben Chitsonga, Macra director of finance and administration, explained that the Macra board approved that Nsaliwa and other officers who use the phones constantly should be given allowances outside the clean wage.

“We had to seek special approval from the board so that they could allow us to start outside the clean wage. This was for Mr Nsaliwa, director of communications and some drivers,” he said.

But Chitsonga could not say when the board approved the allowances and why they had to pay Nsaliwa in arrears.

Macra board chairperson Ted Nandolo said on Friday: “As a board, we approve a broad framework and the details are up to management, especially the day-to-day implementation of what may be in the contract. In this case, therefore, we may have approved that, but how that was implemented is up to Macra management on whether it was a clean wage or there are mistakes, management has much more to explain and not the board based on what is in the contract.”

The man hunt for illegal perks collectors started with M’mangisa who became the first senior officer to be arrested in connection with the matter after it was discovered that he was getting over K600 000 every month on top of a clean wage of about K627 000.

The money he drew outside his contract amounted to K24 million over 36 months.

M’mangisa got paid outside his contract K100 000 as house allowance, K252 000 in fuel allowance, K100 000 cell phone allowance and K40 000 split between his gardener and cook.

He was arrested on charges of abuse of office and is currently on suspension at the council pending the outcome of his case.

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