Malawi has suspended 63 civil servants who allegedly stole millions of dollars of US funds sent for fighting HIV and AIDS, local media reported on Friday.
Health Minister Peter Kumpalume told the Daily Times newspaper that senior officials from the health ministry’s finance, human resources and HIV and AIDS departments were "suspended to allow auditors to investigate and audit the accounts.
This is the first a record number of civil servants have been suspended in the poor southern African nation.
Malawi has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, straining the healthcare system and economy. It has trimmed the national HIV prevalence rate from over 12 percent in 2004 to 10 percent in 2014.
Kumpalume said the stolen money ran into "millions", adding that the US-funded Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had written the ministry to complain that they suspected civil servants from the HIV and AIDS project were defrauding the government.
US ambassador to Malawi, Virginia Palmer, said on Facebook that she hoped the authorities "will identify those responsible and that they will be held fully accountable for the misuse of funds intended to improve the health of Malawian citizens."
Prosecutors have in the past said one third of Malawi’s government revenue is lost through fraud.