By Antony Isaiah Jr
High Court in Lilongwe on Tuesday brought to an end the hearing of the cashgate trial involving former budget director, Paul Mphwiyo and nine others.
Mphwiyo and others in 2017 pleased not guilty to the charges levelled against him and he since asked the state to provide him with some documents which he would like to use in the case.
Through his lawyer Titus Mvalo, Mphwiyo asked the then Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mary Kachale, to among others, provide him with Treasury Funding Authority Book, in respect to the period he was alleged to have committed the crime (April 1 to September 30, 2013).
In the same year, Convicted former assistant director responsible for planning and development in the then Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Leonard Kalonga, had said former budget director Paul Mphwiyo confided in him in June 2013 that he was promoted to the position of budget director as a token of appreciation for the “good work” in sourcing funds for the then ruling People’s Party (PP).
In his testimony on day two in the Mphwiyo and 18 others K2.4 billion Cashgate case yesterday, Kalonga told the court that the Joyce Banda’s government was getting 60 percent of every funding they were illegally sourcing from Treasury and 40 percent was shared among the participating agencies.
The sixth state witness in the case, Phillip Majiga, had said he had no evidence against Mphwiyo but the 2013 over-expenditure in Ministry of Tourism gave an indication that there was appropriation happening.
Majiga, the then Budget Officer in the Ministry of Finance, told one of Mphwiyo’s lawyers, Titus Mvalo, during cross-examination that he was testifying because of erratic expenditure figures extracted from Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis).
The report that Maj iga personally extracted from Ifmis in September 2013 and was part of evidence in the case showed that the then Ministry of Tourism spent over K5.5 billion in between July and first days of September 2013.
Paul Mphwiyo and others in May 2020 were charged with the case to answer in connection with alleged theft and money laundering of the public funds amounting to K2.5 billion.
Judge Ruth Chinangwa who took over the case in 2020 from the retired Esme Chombo is expected to pass her judgement on the case before March 2023.
Chinangwa was assigned the K2.4 billion following the retirement of Judge Esme Chombo, who had since been appointed to serve the country as a diplomat.
Chombo handled the criminal case, number 35 of 2014, for over five years, from 2015 to May last year, when she delivered her last ruling on an application by the suspects that she should recuse herself in the case. She dismissed the application on May 2 and said she had handed over the case to the Judge President for direction.
The former budget director and the others wanted their Cashgate case to recommence because they said a new judge had taken over the matter and the state through the then director of Public prosecution Steve Kayuni had objected to the application saying the applicants did not have any good reasons to restart or stay the case with all witnesses being recalled for hearing.
Initially, there were 19 suspects in total answering the case but five passed away along the way, four were discharged while one suspect was already sentenced.
The parties are expected to make closing submissions within three months and Chinangwa has ordered that both the state and defence team be served with an electronic court record by September 30 this year.
Meanwhile, the court denied to grant bail to kne of the suspects, Steve Phiri whose bail was revoked on Monday for intimidating a defence witness, Stanford Mpoola and Phiri is staying in jail until the judgement is passed should his appeal not succeed.