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Government lies on Peter Mutharika UN trip

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Government lied to Malawians by promising that it will present a report to Parliament detailing millions of tax kwachas President Peter Mutharika’s and his huge entourage blew on a trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September.

Responding to queries to provide details on how many travelled to the US before the trip in September and what it cost the taxpayers, Foreign Affairs Minister Francis Kasaila promised he would make the details available on return.

But he made a u-turn later when he told the media that pressured him that government was not answerable to it but Parliament.

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“We will give the details to Parliament through the Public Accounts Committee. That’s where we are supposed to report to, not the media as that would be creating a parallel reporting structure for the government,” he said.

The House rose yesterday with government changing goal posts saying it will present the report during the mid-term budget review in February 2017.

The unavailability of the report this far has since angered the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) which has accused the government of reneging on its promise and responsibility to the nation.

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Pac Chairperson Alekeni Menyani took a swipe at State House and President Peter Mutharika for not honouring the promise they made to Malawians.

“We expected them to submit the report during the just-ended sitting of Parliament being the first after the UNGA trip. We have not received anything from State House. We are demanding the report as quickly as possible,” said Menyani.

He added that the delay to submit the report may vindicate reports that public funds were abused for the trip as it included people who were not supposed to travel.

“State House is not accountable. It is supposed to lead by example. If the President is really serious about zero tolerance on corruption, he should not find it difficult to submit the report.

“We find it very strange that the sitting has ended and the year is ending without any report coming to us,” said Menyani, adding that his committee will be forced to summon State House to explain the details.

In a separate interview, Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani said the trip was one of the activities under State House budget vote for 2016/17 financial year and there was nothing difficult about submitting the report and “it shall be done.”

“It’s a sub-activity under external travel. Since funds for the trip were approved by Parliament in the 2016- 17 financial year, the earliest report for government activities falling within this period will be in January-February 2017 during the Mid-Year Budget Review process. The UNGA trip just like all other activities the State House would have undertaken by mid of the financial year will be accounted for to Parliament during that process,” said Kalilani.

He added: “The next government accounting process shall take place in the May-June 2017 during the budget session. During this period revenue and expenditure reports from all government departments including the State House for the financial year 2016-17 shall presented. External travel of which the UNGA 2016 trip is part shall also again form part of activities reported under State House during this exercise.”

Kalilani admitted that Mutharika indicated that his government would account for the UNGA 2016 costs as required by law.

“This is a normal public finance management procedure and it happens all the time,” he said.

The President’s trip for the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 caused uproar on account of a large delegation.

Apparently with that condemnation at the back of its mind, government attempted to play clean before the trip with Kasaila saying ahead of it that the entourage would be small.

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