Goodall Gondwe speaks on his absence
Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe Monday explained his absence at the three Budget Consultative meetings, saying he is not running away from explaining the K4 billion payout scandal.
Gondwe, boasting a possible Gross Domestic Product rate of around 5 percent this year and single digit inflation of 8.1 percent in February, has seen all his efforts eroded by issues surrounding the K4 billion payout, which has attracted calls for his resignation.
The former IMF Africa chief is facing calls to resign from Cabinet, together with his counterpart, Local Government and Rural Development Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa, for promising 86 lawmakers K4 billion without Parliament’s authorisation.
“So, you think I left it [budget consultations] because of the K4 billion issue?” Gondwe asked while laughing.
He added: “We have budget meetings this week and I told my people to go and find out the views of the people.”
For over a decade, the country’s finance minister has led budget consultative meetings but, for the first time, Gondwe has broken that tradition by missing three meetings without giving any reason. He instead delegated Secretary to the Treasury, Ben Botolo, raising speculation that the minister was shying away from facing the public
“Also, I find that when I am there, people don’t speak freely; so, I wanted them to speak as freely as possible,” Gondwe said when we asked him to explain the reason for his absence.
He said he also wanted the youth to feel free and contribute to deliberations because the government wants to focus on youth employment.
“I would like us to do something for the youth this time so I thought, if an old man is not there, they would speak freely,” he said.
Rights groups plan to demonstrate next month against the payout, described as a bribe to lawmakers who supported the government in Parliament last year during the crucial debates on Electoral Reforms (Amendment) Bills.
Botolo, who has been leading the delegation from the Treasury in the course of soliciting views from the public on the 2018/19 national budget, was under pressure to explain the absence of his boss.
He begged the participants to leave Gondwe alone, explaining that his boss did nothing wrong.
“Why do you want to torture the old man [by going] that far when the matter was discussed in Parliament under the Rural Development budget?” he said in response to a barrage of questions.
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