Money stolen from agricultural ministry

Malawi has fired 68 civil servants for embezzling $2-million (R27-million ) in public funds, as the country tries to crack down on corruption that has seen donors withdraw support.

Employees at the agricultural ministry have been accused of running a scheme of inflated salaries or payments for nonexistent workers between 2012 and 2014.

"Sixty-eight officers have been dismissed and their cases referred to the attorney-general for prosecution," Osborne Tsoka, the ministry's spokesman, said in a statement yesterday.

A probe showed most of the money was stolen by accounts personnel at the ministry's headquarters in Lilongwe and at research stations.

Malawi's 180000 civil servants earn an average of about $100 (R1300) a month, and corruption is widespread in the public sector.

In 2013 several high-ranking officials were implicated in the "Cashgate" scandal, when millions of dollars were stolen from government coffers.

International donors pulled the plug on aid of around $150-million after it was revealed that at least $30-million was stolen over one six-month period scrutinised by auditors.

Scores of civil servants, politicians and business people implicated in "Cashgate" are facing criminal charges, though only four have been convicted.