Although struggling financially and failing to collect refuse and repair roads in the city, Mzuzu City Council still managed to ransack its ‘empty coffers’ recently and sent seven officials to attend a Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) function in Blantyre in December using five cars.
Going by the comments by the council about the trip, the officials travelled only for the purpose of being seen to be politically correct in the eyes of the government.
But government spokesperson Jappie Mhango has since described the conduct of the officers as crazy, especially because they blew resources on a function not relevant to their mandate.
Minister of Local Governmental and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa and Chancellor College political analyst Mustapha Hussein have also condemned the council’s extravagance at the time government is struggling to raise resources for public services.
The function in question is a MBC’s Innovation Awards where President Peter Mutharika was guest of honour.
According to one councillor who was on the entourage, a total of five vehicles were used to transport the seven officials to Blantyre.
The council’s Chief Executive Officer Macloud Kadammanja, Director of Administration Victor Masina, Mayor William Mkandawire, Deputy Mayor Frazer Chunga all traveled in individual vehicles.
Three councillors, namely, Khumbo Harawa from ruling Democratic Progressive Party, Charles Mlogera from Malawi Congress Party and Hilton Mbale from Peoples Party used one vehicle.
“We all went there to clear the picture that Mzuzu City Council is rebellious and does not patronise government functions.
“While there, the CEO told us that we had bought a table. People and organisations were required to buy tables,” said the councillor.
Our source said each one of the officials received a daily allowance of K25 000, thus K50 000 per person for the two days they spent in Blantyre.
“Each vehicle was given 150 litres fuel. We also bought a table,” said the councilor.
But he could not confirm the K370 000 figure which sources allege was used to buy the table.
Going by the figures given, it means that on fuel alone, using five vehicles, and calculating fuel at the current cost of K711.90 per litre, the council spent K533 925.
On allowances, taking that all received K25 000 per day for two days, the council spent K350 000 on the seven officers who traveled to Blantyre.
With K370 000 for the table, the council in total spent not less than K1,253,925 by attending a function which was not related to the core mandate of councils.
That sum should be enough to buy protective gear for the council’s employees who go about cleaning the city without gumboots, overalls and gloves.
Mzuzu City Mayor Mkandawire confirmed that seven officers indeed traveled to Blantyre to attend the function.
He also said they bought a table because it was a requirement. But he could not say how much they spent for the table.
“At that function, people were buying tables; so one person could not buy a table. That is why we went as a team,” said Mkandawire when asked why the council did not delegate one person to the function.
Asked to explain that the trip was made because of political pressure, Mkandawire said: “We went there to give support. We said as Mzuzu City Council, we should go and be part of the function to imitate what the achievers were doing and be able to change one or two things in Mzuzu. But we cannot be attending each function.”
Mkandawire claimed that Mzuzu councilors are always attacked for being extravagant because he said many of them including the leadership are from opposition Peoples Party.
He said as councilors, they support government of the day and their agenda is to develop the country.
He admitted that most roads in the city are in bad shape but he put the blame on a grader.
“It is our grader that usually lets us down,” he said, without indicating what the problem really is.
But he promised that by June 30 this year, all roads will be rehabilitated.
But government spokesperson Mhango said government is not pleased with officers at Mzuzu City Council because he said since they were elected, they have never done any project for the residents but find pleasure in abusing resources.
“Mzuzu cannot grow with such kind of leaders who do not think of their people. Mzuzu has poor roads and that money could have been used to improve them. That is crazy.
“They went to a function which was not relevant to their duty. As government we are not happy. I hope the Ministry of Local Government will take action,” said Mhango on Thursday who alleged that the team spent K2 million.
On his part Nankhumwa simply said the officers could have used one or two vehicles in the interest of austerity measures.
And Hussein also said Malawi cannot develop with the kind of behaviour demonstrated by the officials from Mzuzu City Council.
“That is not good for the country. Traveling and blowing resources to attend a function which has no bearing on its functions is a waste of resources. May be just the CEO or the PR [public relations] person could have attended the function,” said Hussein.
“Already Malawi is in need of resources for the councils, health, education and others and the council should use resources prudently.”
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