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‘Government expenditure on Covid-19 illegal’

Justin Dzonzi

Mark Botomani

Lawmaker Yeremia Chihana has described the Covid-19 budget illegal and irregular as the country registers an 18th Covid-19 case.

Chihana, who also sits in the Finance Committee of the Pan-African Parliament and the sole Member of Parliament for Alliance for Democracy, said the powers to allocate any public money for any purpose are in the hands of Parliament.

Malawi requires about K150 billion to ably combat the coronavirus and according to Chihana, the Special Cabinet Committee, headed by Minister of Health Jappie Mhango, has no mandate to spend the money without Parliament’s approval.

“We needed to meet and see how we can operationalise the Covid-19 finances. Cabinet on its own has no mandate to spend money that is not allocated by Parliament. We also need to discuss the Appropriation Law for the emergency funds,” Chihana said.

He further suggested that all medical personnel and their families should have Covid-19 medical insurance cover during the period of the crisis.

On Covid-19 resources, law expert Justin Dzonzi concurred with Chihana, saying constitutionally, the power to allocate public money is vested in Parliament.

“What the Executive would do was to approach Parliament with a proposal of expenditure and then Parliament having debated it would then authorise such expenditure. Any expenditure that is being done by the government without Parliament’s approval is illegal. This is clear when one looks at Chapter 18 of the Constitution,” Dzonzi said.

He said that the government cannot hide behind the argument that the country is dealing with an emergency and that there was no time to consult Parliament because “there is no such an exception in the Constitution”.

“Coronavirus started to make headlines sometime in December last year and the government had time to prepare for how to respond to it. Therefore, there is no excuse for failure to plan,” Dzonzi said.

But government spokesperson, Mark Botomani, maintained that public finance regulations allow the government to spend money outside the budget as long as the Minister of Finance reports to Parliament before June 30 about the expenditure.

On April 8, the government launched the National Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan with a budget of $213 million (K157 billion).

Meanwhile the Principal Secretary for Health Dan Namalila disclosed that a new Covid-19 case was recorded in Lilongwe Tuesday.This brings the total of Covid-19 cases to 18 with two deaths.

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