By Isaac Salima:
Taxpayers should prepare to part ways with about K59 million to go towards Lilongwe City decorations and other activities ahead of the 41st Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Ordinary Heads of State and Government Summit to be held next month.
Malawi will, on August 17 and 18, host the summit and streets of Lilongwe City and venue of the event are, as per tradition, expected to be decorated.
During the event, State President Lazarus Chakwera is expected to be inaugurated as chairperson of the regional bloc, which has 16 members.
According to the proposed budget prepared by the decorations subcommittee, K59.4 million has been set aside for the event.
Items, on the document we have seen, include paying a private decorator K10.6 million for decorating the streets and Bingu International Conference Centre venue, K20 million for procuring 4,000 T-shirts at K5,000 each as well as production of Sadc cloth at K9 million.
The document further indicates that K15 million to go towards the production of golf shirts at K10,000 each, K2.2 million will be used for purchasing 500 caps at K4,500 each while K1.6 million is meant for the production of 2,000 placards at K800 each.
The fuel budget has been pegged at K700,000 while K300,000 is for airtime.
The subcommittee is being chaired by the Ministry of Local Government, with Lilongwe City Council, Department of Public Events, Department of Buildings and Ministry of Information as other members.
However, when contacted, Secretary for Local Government Charles Kalemba referred The Daily Times to Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Luckie Sikwese, who refused to speak about the budget.
“It is a work in progress and I cannot comment about the budget because we are still meeting,” Sikwese said.
Director of Information Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, who is chairperson of media and publicity for the summit, also said he could not comment on the budget and who is funding the event.
He only said preparations were going on well and that the summit would put Malawi in the spotlight of regional community development which will promote the local industry.
However, economic expert Betchani Tchereni from Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences blamed the country’s never-ending appetite for reckless spending.
“If the money is coming from our coffers, then it is a huge price to pay, knowing that we have other priority areas that require more attention than street decorations. In this case, the question is whether we are following the law and processes.
“We are coming from a previous regime that was spending unimaginable amounts of money on procuring things like chickens. We seem not to have learnt a lesson from that,” Tchereni said.
The development is coming at a time the government is yet to convince some sections of the society on how it used K50 million for Independence Day celebrations.
The government initially set aside K244 million for the activities which were planned for Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. However, following recommendations from the Presidential Taskforce on Covid, the government later backtracked on the budget and trimmed it to K50 million, with activities taking place in Lilongwe only.