LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-There is fight between law firms and auditor Deloitte on credibility of Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) forensic audit report credibility.
According to The Nation Newspaper, seven law firms and a contractor named in the RBM forensic audit report as having received what auditors described as “suspicious payments” totaling MK2.8 billion have questioned the credibility of the audit.
Representatives of some of the law firms said they filed valid court settlements that prompted government to make the payments to their respective firms.
In the forensic audit report compiled by Deloitte into alleged fraudulent local and foreign payments made by RBM between January 1 2019 and June 30 2020, the auditors claimed that the office of the Attorney General failed to provide documents in support of the payments by the time the audit report was concluded.
But in separate interviews the law firms argued that the auditors did not make an attempt to hear their side of the story before publishing the audit.
The listed law firms include Kalekeni Kaphale Lawyers of former Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale which received MK133.8 million, Tembenu, Masumbu & Partners where former minister of Justice Samuel Tembenu is a partner which received MK110 million and Nampota & Company which got the highest payment of MK2 billion.
The list also includes Mundikhumbengi Building Contractors which received MK274.6 million payment, Joe and Max Chambers which got MK200.7 million and D Salima and Company which got MK125 million payment.
According to the audit report, Deloitte claims to have sought in vain to establish whether the compensations were paid to valid entities or whether there were any unsupported or inflated miscellaneous payments made for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), including legal costs, court awards and settlements.
The account, also known as Compensation and Refunds-Statutory Expenditure account, is used to settle claims against the government.
Tembenu said his law firm had a genuine court consent for the payment under Civil Cause Number 321 of 2017.
“As I said, I haven’t read the report and cannot comment intelligently on the allegations nor the motive thereof. However, we are surprised that the auditors did not request this information from us,” he said.
On his part, Kaphale questioned the credibility of the audit finding, saying his law firm and several others named were not granted any opportunity to explain themselves.
“My law firm and other law firms were never ever asked. I asked the law firm and they said those are clients’ money. They are emanating from court judgements. Government doesn’t just pay people. There should be a paper trail and RBM must have paid based on such papers,” said Kaphale.
Former Anti-Corruption Bureau director Alexious Nampota, a lead partner in Nampota & Company, could not be reached for comment on several attempts.
The audit report includes details of how RBM officials allegedly bypassed own rules and regulations to authorise several “suspicious” payments, issue letters of credit to companies without any due diligence, procured contracts against procurement laws, paid a local bank suspicious sums of money, all at a huge cost to the taxpayer.
The bank is yet to clear on the mess.