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Education activists query K2bn travel budget

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Some education activists have faulted the government on a K2 billion allocation for internal and external travel in the budget to the Ministry of Education.

In this year’s budget, the Ministry has been allocated K110 billion. Out of this about K99.6 billion is for recurrent budget while K10.1 billion is for development budget.

Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC), in its analysis, presented to members of the Education Committee of Parliament questioned the amounts allocated to travel.

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“Item analysis shows that a total of about K2 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Education (mostly headquarters) for travel-related costs (internal and external travel- and motor vehicle running expenses). This is about 21 per cent of the allocation for DEM’s offices in 2015/2016 financial year or 46 per cent of School Improvement Grants allocation for all the districts,” reads a copy of the presentation to the committee.

According to Budget Document Number 5, in 2015/16 Financial Year, internal travel has been allocated K1.213 billion; external travel has K59.62 million while K553 million is for motor vehicle running expenses.

CSEC’s Executive Director, Benedicto Kondowe, wondered why resources for travel and travel-related expenditures are that high.

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“The trend is clear that huge sums of money are being allocated for internal and external travel. This is against the idea of decentralisation. Those resources are quite often abused by the Minister,” Kondowe said.

He added that government could have thought of re-directing the funds to other areas such as Early Childhood Development (ECD).

Another notable allocation to the Ministry is K3 billion which has been earmarked for students’ loans in universities. CSEC has, however, urged government to be vigilant with the loan scheme.

“There is need to put up a robust loan recovery mechanism from students once they graduate. Past measures on the same appear to have failed and it is important to learn how to improve in terms of managing and recovering loans once students graduate from universities,” reads CSEC’s presentation to the committee.

Independent Schools Association of Malawi (Isama) president, Joseph Patel, has urged government to be careful with the transition in the loan scheme.

“Government should be careful with the transition so that the students fully understand what is happening. It was awkward for students to get loans and being given allowances,” Patel said.

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