By Deogratias Mmana
Details have emerged that a total of K238 million was transferred into Chief Secretary’s Account for the purpose of this year’s Independence celebrations.
The sum runs contrary to the K50 million budget which authorities announced following the scaling down of the celebration, reportedly on the advice of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19.
But chairperson of the 2021 Independence celebrations committee Richard Chimwendo Banda has justified the transfer, arguing that it does not necessarily mean expenditure.
At a news conference in Lilongwe on July 1, 2021, the committee, led by Chimwendo Banda, announced that K244 million had been set aside for the celebrations that had been scheduled to be held in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre.
But later the same day, Chimwendo Banda alerted reporters of the change of plan on the celebrations.
He said a decision had been made to reduce the celebrations to only a prayer service, to be held in Lilongwe, to be attended by no more than 200 guests and presided over by President Lazarus Chakwera.
He also said the budget had thus been trimmed to K50 million.
He even said the amount to be spent was likely to go further below K50 million.
However, a leaked bank transaction shows that K238, 286,196.00 was deposited into Chief Secretary to the Government’s account number 1970000056939. The account is at held at FDH bank.
The details on the transaction show that the deposit was made on July 2, 2021 with description: ‘Inward Telex Payment 02 Jul 21. Pay details: RFB/57 Independence //090TRF006290//OPC’.
Reference for the transaction was FT211834Q19R/BNK.
On the same day, the account was also credited with K67,831,850.15. This transaction with reference number FT211839HDRB/BNK had the following description: “Inward Telex Pay details: RFB/Chief Sec July 2021//090TRF00291// OPC.
Some of the debits that were made on the same day include: K266,434.04 through cheque number 005441; K161,345.00 through cheque number 00544; K219808.09 through cheque number 00544; K86,741.33 through cheque number 005430 and cash withdrawal of K20,000 by Jacob Phiri by cheque number 00549.
Asked to explain this transaction, Chimwendo Banda said at the time the decision to scale down the celebration was made, some expenses had already been incurred and it was impossible to avoid them.
“The time we were making a decision to cancel the celebrations in other regions which was just two days before the main event, we had made some expenses which were not possible to avoid, like celebration cloth and others,” Chimwendo Banda said Friday.
He added: “The total expenditure however for the whole celebrations is less than K87 million but the Lilongwe function cost us around K50 million.”
On the K238 million transferred into Chief Secretary’s account for the Independence event, Chimwendo Banda said:
“The truth is that we got the funding into that account but that money has not been used. To be funded and to use the money are totally different things.
“The change on the celebrations was only done two days before the function while the funding was made available on 2nd July.”
Chimwendo announced the change on July 1. The event took place on July 6.
He said the original budget was K243 million and not all of that was used.
He also said that his committee would produce a report on the celebrations.
President Chakwera took a swipe at the poor quality of the decorations for the celebrations.
“When you hear a fellow citizen complaining, ask them: is what you are doing making Malawi better? When you see people putting ugly decorations at roundabouts, stop and ask them: is what you are doing making Malawi better?” He said.
This year’s celebrations were under the theme: “Building an inclusive, wealthy and self-reliant through Mind set Change and Servant Leadership.”
The nation celebrated the day by having a national service of worship in Lilongwe and all regional celebrations were cancelled.