Malawi to review IFMIS ICT Security Policy

By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi

Malawian President Joyce Banda says her government will come up with Integrated Financial Management Information Systems (IFMIS) ICT security policy following the grand theft of billions that the government suffered due to the tampering with of the IFMIS payment system.

This follows reports of financial abuse within the public service over the past few weeks.

Several government officials and business people have since been arrested due to the fraud, which involved huge payments of money that public officers were making to companies that had no contract with government, by using the system.

Briefing opposition parties at the state residence in Lilongwe this week,  in what she called ‘update on the actions taken by our government in order to address the weakness in the Public Financial Management (PFM)’ President Banda said her government is undertaking a number of necessary corrective measures, some of which are immediate and others long term’.

“Recognising the gravity of the matter at hand,” explained Banda, “... my Government has put in place measures to arrest the pilferage of Government resources and that immediately after it was realised that the digital platform was being abused, Government temporarily suspended the IFMIS to prevent further abuse of the system and worked on corrective measures to resolve the weaknesses that were immediately identified.”

She once again said government has mobilised both independent Malawi task team of experts and those experts from the vendor who supplied the digital platform to work on the system to ensure that all the functionalities are operational.

“These experts have so far identified fraudulent transactions that were made in the system and deleted. Thus, Government has been able to identify suspicious transactions and are being investigated,” she declared before adding:

“It is pleasing to note that retrieved information gives details of the persons involved in the facilitation of the transaction, the amounts involved and the beneficiaries.”

She said this information has been passed on to the law enforcement agencies to analyse and come up with a firm basis for further action.

“On some of the transactions, the Anti-corruption Bureau has already filed charges in the Magistrate Courts. The processes will be on-going as further revelations come to the fore,” she said. 

The Malawi President said she assures everyone that her government will always remain committed to ensure that all the issues surrounding Public Finance Management Systems are resolved as soon as possible.

“Government will also ensure that the investigations are thorough, transparent and transformational so that never again this country will have to go such a pain again,” she said.

This is why she said Government has included foreign forensic experts in this investigation.

“To this end, we already have short term experts on the ground working with the national audit office. The audit will not be limited to the current financial year. It will zero onto payments undertaken in the past five years,” she said.

President Banda also said in respect of accounting, her Government has already engaged the systems supplier to collate all suspicious transactions and review the systems gaps and plug them, including engaging an ICT Security expert who will ensure that the system is not tampered with.

“Government will also come up with an IFMIS ICT Security Policy in addition to capacity building through improving the competence of accounting and ICT officers,” she said.

“My Government will not shield anyone engaged in the current malpractice. Already there has been re-deployment of staff within the Civil Service to pave way for the investigation,” she added.

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