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Causation of Fraud and Corruption in the Public Sector

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Accounting
Wordcount: 4068 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Impact of Cashgate Corruption Scandal in Malawi – a Qualitative Analysis


This study analyses the causes of Fraud and corruption in the public sector. Specifically, the research is aimed at understanding the cause and effect of fraud and Corruption in Malawi Government Public Service. The research will focus on the loss of public resources through Fraud and Corruption on the national budget for Malawi as revealed by the Forensic Accountant reports issued in 2016. Through analysis of the dubbed “Cashgate Report” issued by Barker Tilly, the research aims at analyzing the cause and suggest the corrective tools and techniques’ to combat fraud and corruption in Malawi Public services.

The research will focus on the impact of loss and its causes in four public service institutions (Health, Agriculture, Education, Tourism and Finance) that reported a significant loss of funds through cashgate.


In 2013 Malawi experienced massive plunder of public resources by civil servants, companies, government officials and some members of the public, through Fraud and corruption in what was described as “Cashgate”. In February 2014, Baker Tilly Business Services Limited (Baker Tilly), released a forensic and investigation audit for Malawi Government. The report covered a review of transactions from a period beginning April 2013 to September 2013. The report revealed a quantified loss of funds amounting to MK13Billion () through fraud and Corruption.  This research, therefore, aims at analyzing the impact of the loss and determine how the resources disappeared. The study will be undertaken also to provide suggestive tools and techniques that would assist to combat the problem in future in Fraud and corruption in public institutions. It is believed that the fraud and corruption are still on the increase despite the 2014 report. A recent report currently in the public domain indicates that a further MK577 billion could have been lost between 2014 and 2016 through fraud and corruption.

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 The 2018/2019 National budget for Malawi stands at around £1.5million it is estimated by the Office of Director of public procurement that at least 40% of the national budget is lost through procurement fraud. This is quite a substantial amount of money to drive the economy forward.  Malawians. As reported by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi, 2016), the loss of government resources through corruption and fraud is more pronounced in the public sector as opposed by the private sector.

The “cashgate” scandal uncovered in 2013 involving a large-scale theft of public funds damaged Malawi’s economic outlook significantly (IMF, 2015)

This calls for a detailed review to analyze the cause and identify the impact of losses for the public fund.


Hoopwood, Leiner, Young,2012 define Fraud as a result of misleading, intentional actions or inactions (including making misleading statement and omitting relevant information) to gain an advantage.

Causation of Fraud and corruption.

The causes of According to the fraud records, employee fraud causes are largely related to a person’s morality, lack supervision from internal control, poor knowledge about fraud and peer pressure. Most of the fraud cases are being committed by the employees because they want to achieve a certain level of lifestyle.

Among the pioneers of research on fraud causation, Donald R Cressey (1919-1987) developed the fraud triangle theory where it is alleged that people commit fraud when the following three factors exist; perceived pressure, rationalization and perceived opportunity. Cressey’s theory states that people commit fraud when they have a financial or non-financial pressure to achieve in an environment that permits them to commit such fraud, with the hope that they may justify their action. He concluded that it takes all the three elements to exist for fraud to occur.  The research is aimed at identifying specific pressures resulting in fraud and corruption in government. 

Wells (2017) reiterated Dr. Steve Albrecht theory that occupation fraud and abuses are motivated by among other factors, living beyond one’s means, overwhelming desire for personal gains, high personal debts, close association with customers and excessive gambling habits. These factors closely linked with Donald Cressey fraud triangle theory. The research is also geared to ascertain element that brings about occupation fraud in the public sector.

The 2015 Global survey by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners revealed that perpetrators of fraud and corruption in an institution include employees, managers, and executives. Wells (2017, p29). The survey will also work to substantiate civil servants involvement in the Malawi fraud and corruption scandal

Petrucelli and Peters (2016, p413) identified the five categories of financial statement fraud. According to Petrucelli and Peter (2016, p413), misstatement of revenue, misstatement of expenditure or misappropriation, misstatement of assets/liabilities, inadequate disclosures, misappropriation of assets and failing to provide for liabilities are the major categories of financial statement fraud. The aforementioned categories, therefore relate mainly to financial statements. Government or public institutions rarely produce financial statements as required by the accounting profession.  This research, therefore, will categories other non-financial statement fraud public institutions encounter thereby highlighting their causes and effect in the institutions.

In light of the 2014 financial loss in Malawi Government, Kayuni  (2016), explored the law relating to the prosecution of suspected government officials who were involved in fraud and corruption and mentioned in the Baker Tilly report. Kayuni(2016) identified offense of public theft, theft by public servant, money laundering and corruption as plausible charges that would be leveled against the suspects of the act. Little the research journal did not tackle on the Impact and cause of the vice. 

Following the release of the report, Malawi’s major international donors pulled out budgetary support to the country until the issue was addressed. In his report, Lameck (2016) indicated that donors under the Common Approach to Budget Support (CABS) which include the IMF and World Bank who were reviewing the progress of the country’s 2013/2014 national budget in capital Lilongwe, resolved to withhold the $150m quarterly funding until the issue is settled. The donors are yet to return to Malawi as the courts are still pursuing the matter.


Research design

Brayman and Bell (2011) discuss the five research designs for collecting and analysis of data. The research designs are experimental design; cross-sectional or social survey design; longitudinal design; case study design; and comparative design. Furthermore, the selection of a particular design is dependent on appropriate quality criteria that involves reliability of the research, validity of research and replicability of the research. The following paragraphs briefly illustrate these methods of conducting surveys

Experimental design

Experimental research is mostly used because it produces considerable confidence in robustness and trustworthiness of causal findings (Bryman and Bell (2011, p 45). It can deduce the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. It aims at manipulating the independent variables to determine if they will have an impact on dependent variables.

However, it is rarely used in social research as it is considered either impractical or unethical. (online )

Cross-sectional design

Involves collection of data on more than one case study at the same time using a number of variables that are examined to deduce the pattern of association. Since data is collected almost at the same time, the researcher may not manipulate any of the variables. (Bryman and Bell, 2011, p54).

Longitudinal design

Longitudinal research design involves a survey of the same sample on more than one occasion. It may show areas of business change over a period. The design may be used to determine the causal effects over a period.  The longitudinal design comprises two categories namely panel study and cohort study. Panel study will focus on the collection of a sample of data on two or more occasions while cohort study data is collected on an entire cohort of the randomly selected sample. Both studies may bring about erosion challenges. 

Case study design

A case study generally entails a detailed and intensive analysis of a single case. (Bryman and Bell, 2011 p59). Thus, it may entail a study of a single organization, or a single location, or a single event or a person. Case study often includes longitudinal elements as discussed above.

It is the popular and widely used research design in business research (Eisenhardt and Graesbner, 2007).

Comparative design

Bryman and Bell (2011, p63) state that comparative design involves studying more or less similar methods of two or more contrasting cases. The design implies social phenomena could be better understood when they are compared in relation to two or more meaningfully contrasting cases.  The design may be used to compare cross-cultural elements. This may bring about the challenge of getting funding ensuring that data is comparable from the different cultures and the potential problem of an insensitivity to specific national and cultural context.

Quality Criteria

The evaluation of a business research is done using the following criterion reliability, replication, and validity.


This criterion is where the concern is placed on whether research measures are repeatable and consistent.


This is where a researcher would want to replicate the findings of other researchers.

Research may be replicated if there are persuasive ground s that the original results do not match evidence relevant to the research question. (Bryman and Bel, 2011)  


Validity aims at considering the integrity of research results. The criteria focus on analyzing the validity of measurement, internal validity, and external validity causal effect 



Lincon and Goba (1985) proposed trustworthiness as a further criterion for assessing qualitative research.  This measures how good a study is. The trustworthiness contains four aspects namely; credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. These aspects are closely linked to elements of validity, reliability, confirmability.


This research aims to resolve and respond to the following questions

  • What causes of the fraud and corruption in the public sector (specifically Malawian context following issues)?
  • What is the impact of the 2013 and 2014 financial losses?
  • What are the tools and techniques needed to combat fraud and corruption?

In order to determine answers to the above question the case study of the recent financial scandal popularly known as cash gate will be analyzed. Thus, the research will review the Baker Tilly report to determine the cause of the 2013 financial loss in the public sector. To supplement the details the research will also focus on an audit report done by KPMG on Malawi public service for a period 2014. The two reports would be compared to highlight the ideal causes and impact of the financial loss. Therefore, the research will also consider a comparative approach research design to the two studies.

ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Leedy and Ormrod (2015) suggest that most ethical issues in research fall into one of four categories: protection from harm, voluntary and informed participation, right to privacy, and honesty with professional colleagues. This research will also take into account the aforementioned ethical considerations.

 Protection from Harm

As this research will be focusing on government financial issues all due consideration will be made to all the participants of the study to avoid harming their careers. A research that will harm participants would be regarded as unacceptable (Bryman and Bell, (2011, p128).

Voluntary and informed participants.

The participants of the study would be required to voluntary participate in the study and would be given all the necessary information to make them aware of the research at hand. This view is emphasized by Leedy and Ormorod (2015), that participants must be informed of the nature of the study, and have a choice to participate or not and be allowed to pull out if need be.



Right to privacy- confidentiality

This research will also keep the nature and quality of individual participants’ performance strictly confidential (Leedy and Ormorod (2015). As the research will come across some sensitive government information and issues that are in court or will be in court soon, the right to privacy of the concerned individuals would be of utmost importance.


The findings of this research will be reported honestly without fabrication or misrepresentation for the appropriate authorities to determine the possible cause of action.


To come up with appropriate results for the study, the research will be carried out in six months period starting from April 2019 to September 2019. The proposed period and activities are as highlighted in the chart below.       
















                              Proposed activities for research on cause and impact of fraud and corruption in public sector-case for Malawi

Successful achievement of the proposed research will rely on the researcher attaining interview skills, development of research questionnaire skill, analytical reviews techniques and learning the reference guidelines.


This proposal is to determine the major causes of fraud and corruption in the public sector. The results will be shared with appropriate government officials to determine a course of action.

In assessing the impact of fraud and corruption all ethical considerations would be regarded to provide a fair picture of the situation and to an argument the current views held by other researchers.


  • Bryman, A. and Bell, E. 2011 Business Research Methods 3rd edition, United States of America Oxford University Press
  • Leedy, D. P. and Ormrod, E. J, 2015, Practical Research Planning and Design 11th edition, England,Pearson
  • Hoopwood, S. W, Leiner, J. J, and Young, R. George  2012, Forensic Accounting and Fraud Examination, 2nd edition, Singapore, McGraw Hill
  • Wells, T. J, 2017, Corporate Fraud Handbook Prevention and Detection 5th edition, New Jersey, Wiley
  • Petrucelli, R. J., and Peters, R. J, 2016, Preventing Fraud and Mismanagement in Government: Systems and Structures, Wiley.
  • Kayuni, W. S, 2016, Running to stand still: reflections on the cashgate scandal heist in Malawi Journal of Money laundering Control, Vol.19, Iss 2, 169-188


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