04.03.2014 Malawi

Cash from Malawi's presidential jet fed the poor, paid wages

Malawi's presidential jet at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, on May 14, 2012.  By Amos Gumulira AFPFileMalawi's presidential jet at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, on May 14, 2012. By Amos Gumulira (AFP/File)
04.03.2014 LISTEN

Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - The $15-million raised from last year's sale of a luxury Malawi presidential jet fed the poor and bought military equipment, the president said Tuesday amid allegations they may have been embezzled.

"It was me who said let's sell the jet and the cabinet agreed three things to benefit buy maize, buy military equipment such as patrol boats and pay for peacekeeping mission in the DRC," said President Joyce Banda.

Malawi has contributed soldiers to the 3,000-strong UN intervention brigade authorised to go after armed groups ravaging DR Congo. Other troops are from Tanzania and South Africa.

Some of the "money was also used to buy medicine and fertiliser which was loaned to farmers", she told reporters.

Banda's administration is under scrutiny after government was rocked by a $30 million graft scandal -- the biggest financial scandal in the country's history.

Banda said Finance Minister Maxwell Mkwezalamba would provide to the public a breakdown of how the proceeds from the jet sale were used "because there are so many questions from Malawians".

A damning audit last month revealed that corrupt officials had stolen from state coffers over $30 million, or the equivalent of more than one percent of GDP, in one of the world's poorest countries.

The theft occurred over six months last year.

The jet had been bought by Banda's predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika who died from a heart attack in 2012.

When she took over office, Banda introduced a gamut of cost-cutting measures and uses commercial airlines to travel outside the country.

The 14-passenger aircraft was auctioned off to a Virgin Islands company, Bohnox Enterprise Ltd.

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