November 10, 2005

President authorised graft, says ex-minister

A former minister on trial for corruption testified that President Bingu wa Mutharika and his cabinet authorised him to use public funds to woo legislators for a new party the president had formed. Former Education Minister Yusuf Mwawa, sacked by wa Mutharika for using government cash to fund his wedding reception, told the court he was asked to oversee a special account to buy support for the Democratic Progressive party. "On February 1, 2005, the cabinet with the president decided that we transfer about $42,000 to a dormant special account at my ministry to be used to woo opposition MPs in a bid to strengthen the new party," Mwawa told the court. Wa Mutharika's office rejected the testimony as lies. "This is a fabrication of lies against the president and the opposition is using every opportunity to embarrass him in a bid to discredit his government in the eyes of the international community," presidential spokesman Chikumbutso Mutumodzi claimed.

Wa Mutharika and his predecessor Bakili Muluzi accuse each other of graft. A parliamentary watchdog dominated by Muluzi's supporters issued a report accusing wa Mutharika and two cabinet ministers of bribing members of parliament and traditional leaders and called for them to be investigated. For his part, wa Mutharika has asked the state Anti-Corruption Bureau to investigate Muluzi and his close circle for corruption. The bureau accuses Muluzi of misusing $11 million in donor cash during his 10-year presidency, which ended in 2004. (Rts)

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