Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) head of policy, planning and research Roza Mbilizi is fighting theft and abuse of office charges leveled against her for allegedly failing to refund travel allowances whose trip she did not undertake.
The arrest compelled MRA deputy commissioner Crispin Kulemeka to suspend Mbilizi, according to a letter from the tax collecting institution reference MRA/HRCS/SUS/80/11/12 and dated August 9 2012.
The State accuses Mbilizi of abuse of office for failing to reimburse US$1 950 (about K570 000) at present exchange rate) in allowanes meant for a trip to the United Kingdom where she was to attend a meeting between March and April 2011, but she failed to travel.
The State also claims that between March 28 and 30 2011, she was overpaid on her food allowances by R18 000 (K650 000), but the money was not refunded. She is also accused of travelling on business class when she is supposed to travel on economy class, according to the State.
The police took her statement on August 8 2012 through senior superintendent Yacks Bonongwe of Blantyre Fiscal and Fraud Section, according to documents.
But Mbilizi has so far argued that on the UK trip and a South Africa medical trip, the human resources and the administration departments were supposed to effect refunds since they miscalculated food allowances for the medical trip.
She said she surrendered the receipts to the head of human resources and “I expected him to come back to me if there was any money that I
had to refund. Allowances for medicals are normally estimates/contingencies which are supposed to be confirmed and reconciled upon production of receipts. As far as I am concerned, this was the case and I had no other issues to settle.”
Mbilizi says in her statement that she failed to undertake the UK trip because of visa problems. She says she expected the human resource and administration departments to process the refund, but that was not done.
She adds that she had no influence how she travelled (business or economy class) because arrangements are made by human resource, administration and procurement departments.
In his statement, head of administration Harrison Banda says Mbilizi is entitled to economy class. He also says he was not aware that Mbilizi did not finish all days.
However, Mbilizi e-mailed director of finance David Loga and Banda on April 21 2011 informing them about the failure to travel to London.
“Please note that I did not travel to London as arranged because I got my visa when it was too late for me to travel. I only went to the hospital in South Africa and got treatment. I will send the report to Mr. Banda once the doctor e-mails it to me. Please arrange to retrieve my allowances for the London trip. Thanks and nice holiday.”
Banda, who said did not know that Mbilizi did not finish her days, responded to the e-mail on April 22 2011: “Noted sister, sorry I missed many of your calls.”
And in his statement, director of finance writes that Mbilizi e-mailed him on April 21 2011 requesting that the allowances be “retrieved” but as they were paid into her visa card, only her instruction to the bank would have been honoured.
Loga admits that the error in shooting up the allowances was theirs.
“The human resource department issued an instruction to process allowances amounting to 25 890.99 rand besides instructing the procurement department to arrange a ticket costing K110 000. The instruction, however, erroneously reflected the subsistence allowance component as 20 000 rand instead of 2 000 rand. Inadvertently, the instruction to the bank was based on the wrong instruction and a total 25 890.99 rand was credited to the officer’s visa debit card.”
Kulemeka wrote Mbilizi a suspension letter on August 9 2012: “Be informed that you are suspended from performing your duties in MRA with immediate effect. The suspension follows a report suggesting that you are being investigated and have been arrested and charged by police with a criminal offence of abuse of office.”
She is currently on half the salary.
MRA conditions of service stipulate under section 150: “Where a charge involves an employee graded C1 above, the hearing is to be held by the board of directors on recommendation by the office of the commissioner general.”
Mbilizi is C1 according to a senior officer at MRA who also alleged that the board did not meet over Mbilizi’s suspension.
When called for an interview, Mbilizi refused to say anything arguing the matter is in court.
Fiscal police arrested Mbilizi in August and released her on bail on August 9 2012. Court hearing on September 12 2012 was adjourned to September to 25 2012.