Finance Minister, Goodall Gondwe, Wednesday described the K4 billion payout to Members of Parliament (MPs) as “an intention” which will materialise only if the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) manages to collect enough funds through taxes.
In an exclusive interview with The Daily Times yesterday, Gondwe insisted that the K4 billion is yet to be paid out.
“The money has not been paid out yet…K4 billion is not there. It has not been collected yet by MRA and from grants…They remain intentions,” he said in his office at Capital Hill in Gondwe is facing calls to step down, alongside Local Government and Rural Development Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa. The two are accused of authorising the initial K4 billion payout to 86 MPs out of the 193 lawmakers without Parliament’s approval.
But Gondwe said it is possible that all the money earmarked for the projects may not be collected.
“Therefore, its intended expenditures will not be done…So, the fact that I said one of the intentions for the K4 billion would be to spend it on rural development micro-projects does not mean that it will be done in any circumstances. It will be done if the money arrives as it was estimated,” he said.
Gondwe reiterated his earlier position that the K4 billion, if implemented, would help accelerate development at local level, as area development committees (ADCs) will be the ones making decisions on projects that would be bankrolled using the money, unlike in District Development Fund (DDF) and Constituency Development Fund (CDF) arrangements.
The government, he said, wanted some of the small projects that are suggested by the ADCs to be implemented by community members themselves.
“When we did a review of the budget this time, we found that we had some extra resources; subtracting from there, adding there. The net result was that we had some surplus intended resources,” Gondwe said.
He said, through the process, the government managed to reduce its appetite for borrowing by K34 billion [in monetary terms].
“We still had some resources, about K4 billion. And we said, ‘what do we do with them [resources]?’ and we said, ‘now is the time we could do what we have been trying to do for some time’,” he said.
Gondwe said ADCs were asked to offer suggestions on what could be done and the amount that they required amounted to less than K20.7 million.
“We could tell them to go ahead [with projects] and, then, we would send money to be paid,” he said.
The K4 billion scam was exposed by our sister paper, Malawi News, which revealed that the government planned to pay 86 constituencies belonging to MPs said to have supported the ruling party in Parliament last year.
The newspaper revealed that most of the beneficiaries were legislators who shot down Electoral Reforms (Amendment) Bills.
But following the revelation,(MPs agreed that the loot be shared among all the 193 constituencies. That meant that each constituency would get K20.7 million.
But Gondwe insisted yesterday that the decision to choose constituencies that would benefit from the projects rested in the hands of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
He also dismissed assertions that the K4 billion was a ‘thank you’ to the 86 MPs who were earmarked to get a share of the money.
Gondwe mentioned Kamlepo Kalua’s constituency as one of the beneficiaries on the initial list.
“They have accused us, [saying] that a lot of people came from DPP [Democratic Progressive Party. Possibly, very true. But there are also some people who come from other [political] parties. Kamlepo Kalua is one of them. And also [Amon] Nkhata from Kasungu [Central], is one of them,” Gondwe said.
Interestingly, Kalua was one of the MPs that sneaked into State House to meet President Peter Mutharika and was absent from Parliament when voting on the electoral bills started.
He said, later, that he was attending a funeral in Tanzania.
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