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Malawi budget director Paul Mphwiyo shot in a planned and targeted attack

The office of Malawi’s president says the country’s budget director was shot and severely wounded Friday in an attack that appears to be related to his efforts to fight official corruption.

President Joyce Banda’s office said in a statement Sunday that Paul Mphwiyo was the victim of ‘‘a planned and targeted attack aimed at silencing him’’ and others who are fighting corruption and fraud.

The statement said Mphwiyo was in a critical but stable condition in a South African hospital.

Budget director Paul Mphwiyo—shot Friday night as he drove into his Area 43 home in Lilongwe—was receiving death threats prior to his fate, Nation on Sunday has learnt.

Mphwiyo’s colleagues at the Ministry of Finance and close family members said yesterday that the 37-year-old budget chief had confided in them that he was receiving phones threatening his life in connection with his tough public finance and economic management measures that that have closed pilfering loopholes at Capital Hill.

During his two months as budget director, Mphwiyo has also cracked down on dubious government contracts and payouts that were a conduit for siphoning out billions of taxpayers’ money but which the Ivy League trained economist has largely cancelled.

“He had told us that he was receiving death threats, but it was informal. Nothing was ever tabled before Ministry of Finance management and Paul himself never thought it was serious enough.

“He believed that it was just some disgruntled people who thought he was spoiling their business deals, that is, fraudulent government contracts and closing out embezzling loopholes,” said a Treasury source yesterday who asked not to be quoted discussing a sensitive and tragic matter. A close family friend also said Mphwiyo told him of the threats prior to the shooting.

Police yesterday said Mphwiyo was in critical but stable condition in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe after an unidentified assailant shot and seriously wounded him at his house in the Capital City on Friday night.

Lilongwe Police spokesperson Kingsley Dandaula said Mphwiyo was shot three times in the cheek, shoulder and chest.

Dandaula said the assailant stood at the gate of Mphwiyo’s house and shot him as he drove into the house.

He said the attacker did not steal anything from the house.

“He continued driving while he was being shot at and collapsed upon entering his house,” said Dandaula.

He said Mphwiyo was rushed to the Medical Aid Society of Malawi (Masm) clinic, just a few blocks from the budget director’s residence, where he was immediately referred to KCH.

“According to the doctors, he is stable but still in a critical condition. We are investigating the matter. So far, we have not yet established the motive behind the shooting,” said Dandaula.

Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya said in an interview yesterday that the Ministry of Finance was shocked by Mphwiyo’s shooting and hoped that his colleague would recover soon.

“We are waiting for the doctors to give us a report on his condition. He is still in ICU, so I have not been allowed to see him. As a Ministry, we will do everything we can to save Mr. Mphwiyo’s life and we will fully cooperate with the police so that whoever has done this and the motive behind this crime is unmasked,” said Msowoya.

Mphwiyo was appointed budget director in the Ministry of Finance in July this year.

Soon after his appointment, he worked closely with Finance Minister Dr Ken Lipenga and Treasury Secretary Randson Mwadiwa to overhaul the public finance management architecture’s business processes—including those of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMS)—that were full of loopholes and have led to fraud and waste of government resources.

Some of the tough measures Mphwiyo introduced during his two months as budget chief include:

  • That internal auditors pre-clear all payments above K500 000 and that the controlling officer must ensure payments are bona-fide.
  • Introduction of registers to link funding and cheques issued, which means that all cheques issued should be reconciled against the funding made. All cheques should be endorsed to signify that they have been entered in the register, which should carry such details as the beneficiary Ministry, names of signatories to the cheque, cheque amount and cheque number.
  • All cheques of over K500 000 must be deposited in the bearer’s account and commercial banks will be required to seek clearance from the Accountant General before money is released.

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