The Chief Resident Magistrate Court in Lilongwe has on Monday denied bail for Deputy Director for Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma), Fyabupi Mwafongo and 15 others who were charged of abuse of cases relating to plunder of funds meant for the fight against Covid-19.
Mwafongo was on Friday charged of abuse of office by allegedly authorizing the expenditure of K4 Million on allowances which he failed to account for.
Together with the other 15 officials, he was further charged with theft by public servants for pocketing at least K4.2 Million as allowances for a two-day meeting in Mponela in Dowa district.
When applying for bail, the state told the court that it gave the accused holding charges but needed at least 14 days for it to further investigate the matter which it described as complex.
The 16 have since spent a weekend in custody and were taken to court on Monday to satisfy the 48-hour rule.
Making his ruling, Chief Resident Magistrate Patrick Chirwa agreed with the state that based on argument brought before him, it is possible to hold suspects in custody as investigations continue.
“The matter emanates from misappropriation of Covid response funds and it involves officials in white collar jobs. Where such money crimes are involved, complications may arise but the state indeed needs more time for investigations,” Chirwa highlighted.
He then ruled that the state will be given 7 days to complete investigations and if it fails, the accused will be entitled to re-apply for bail.
Reacting to the development, one of the lawyers for the accused, Paweni Nkhata, pointed out that bail is not an absolute right, but since he has not read the disclosures yet, he may not comment on whether he is satisfied or not.
Their case comes amid growing pressure on the government to give a detailed account of how K6.2-billion worth of Covid 19 response funds were utilised.