President Peter Mutharika’s tour of some roads that are under construction in Mzuzu City Council on Friday left the council financially crippled after it released K1.5 million in allowances and fuel refunds to 20 officials from the Ministry of Local Government.
The officials escorted Minister of Local Government and Urban Development, Kondwani Nankhumwa, who was with Mutharika on the assignment.
However, the release of the money has affected some operations at the council since councillors have not yet been paid their December honoraria.
Inside source told The Daily Times on Friday that the council received a directive from the ministry to pay K390,000 to the officials for fuel, flouting council’s procedure that only allows the accounts office to pay fuel in vouchers straight to a filling station.
Reports say the officials got the allowances and yet they already signed normal allowances from the ministry in Lilongwe.
However, Spokesperson in the Ministry of Local Government Mulhabase Mughogho refused to comment on the matter and referred the reporter to Mzuzu City Council authorities.
The council’s Public Relations Officer, Karen Msiska, admitted the council payed the officials but said they were not told that the officers had already pocketed other allowances from the ministry.
“We paid them because they came for our project. However, we admit flouting the procedures by paying fuel refund in cash. We did that because we were paying them according to mileage basis,” Msiska said.
However, Deputy Mayor, Fraser Chunga, said it was sad that the officials received allowances twice without considering the economic crisis the council is passing through.
“It’s true that some have not received December honoraria but we saw our friends signing for allowances. And as you have noticed, I am walking because my official vehicle has no fuel. We do not know what will happen next,” Chunga said.
However, Msiska said the council has not paid some councillors because some people are not paying city revenue in time.
“We are in financial crisis because people are not paying city rates and other fees. We use the same money for payments and providing services to residents,” Msiska said.
Msiska, however, said the fuel problem comes because some members of staff are on holiday and once they are in office, everything will be sorted out.
Catholic Commission of Justice and Peace Mzuzu Diocesan Secretary Arnold Msimuko described the ministry’s tendency as theft and asked for proper investigations on the matter.
Msimuko added that the ministry should support the councils and not putting unnecessary pressure on their already weak finances.
The source also said the council paid for expenses including accommodation of Nankhumwa at Grand Palace Hotel.
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