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Government gets tough on expenditure

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Willie Kambwandira

The government has banned lakeshore meetings for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) with immediate effect, new Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba announced Wednesday.

But while welcoming the austerity measures, a commentator said the measures may not yield positive results if the issue of corruption during procurement processes is not addressed.

Addressing heads of MDAs in Lilongwe, Zamba said the government has also banned boards of parastatals from holding board meetings, saying boardrooms are purposely built for that function.

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According to Zamba, meetings for MDAs must take place at the duty station and not outside the district.

She could, however, not immediately state how much the move would help the government save in Kwacha terms.

Zamba, however, cited the example of the forthcoming leadership workshop for principal secretaries financed by the Commonwealth, which was supposed to be held in Salima later this month and will now be held in Lilongwe, where the government will save K32 million.

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The head of the civil service said the measure is aimed at containing expenditure by the civil service in line with the austerity measures announced by President Lazarus Chakwera last week.

“We have immediately suspended the holding of meetings outside duty stations. For example, Lilongwe is a duty station; so, no going to Mponera, no going to Salima for meetings. Why should an Internal Procurement and Disposable Committee go all the way to Salima to review contracts? No. That has been suspended until further notice.

“Even the parastatals; board meetings should take place in their boardrooms. The board of a parastatal should not go all the way to Salima, all the way to Dubai [United Arab Emirates] for a board meeting. No. Those boardrooms are called boardrooms because that’s where the board [members] should meet,” Zamba said.

Secretary to the Treasury Macdonald Mafuta Mwale and Secretary for Education Chikondano Mussa described the meeting as crucial, saying it helped technocrats appreciate the vision of the new SPC.

Mafuta Mwale said the technocrats needed to appreciate the austerity measures put in place by the government so that they communicate the same to their juniors.

On his part, Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency Executive Director Willy Kambwandira said the austerity measures could be a good move if the saved resources can be put to good use.

“However, we feel this is not enough. We want to hear about genuine measures regarding huge procurements because that is where corruption and real abuse thrive,” Kambwandira said.

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