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‘Magic money’ haunts Goodall Gondwe

Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe Thursday frantically tried to justify an allocation of K4 billion to be used for rural development.

Our sis ter paper, Malawi News, revealed that government was paying K40 million each to 86 Members of Parliament (MPs). The MPs are mostly those who voted against the Electoral Reforms Bills which the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was against.

According to Gondwe, what he described as “magic K4 billion” is from the surplus which the government had after implementing the budget for six months.

“We had a maximum figure of borrowing which was K33 billion. That was the figure that could be consistent with the proper liquidity position and would be neutral with inflation. When we did the calculations, we had some resources that we could use, over and above the K33 billion. That surplus includes the K4 billion you are talking about,” Gondwe said at a press conference in Lilongwe.

He added: “We could either throw it away or we could use it. And we found in the ministry that the K4 billion could be used very well in rural areas, in terms of boreholes, in terms of schools, in terms of roads, bridges et cetera. We gave that money to the Ministry of Local Government. They accepted that and decided on how they were going to use it.

Ironically, Gondwe had to slash the mid-year revised budget by K9.3 billion because the Malawi Revenue Authority failed to meet its revenue collection target and donors were yet to inject K60 billion in the national budget.

Much as the minister looked convincing on the economic explanation of the whole issue, his explanation on the link between the funding and suspected reward, for rejecting electoral reforms bills, to DPP and United Democratic Front (UDF) as well as some People’s Party (PP) and some independent MPs was far from convincing.

Gondwe insisted that the original list included all political parties, and dismissed that what he was doing was fire-fighting.

“Even the K40 million followed what I have said. This is not fire-fighting. We asked them that this should be done…I myself do not know the list. We don’t have that list in the Ministry of Finance…What I have heard is that [Rumphi East MP Kamlepo] Kalua got it, some people in MCP and a lot more from DPP. That’s what I have heard. Why should I appease a man like Kalua who has been bad to me all the time? Why would [Minister of Local Government and Rural Development] Mr [Kondwani] Nankhumwa appease Mr Kalua? Why would he appease him?” Gondwe said.

The document our sister paper, Malawi News, based its story on showed that the projects, totalling about K3.4 billion, had already been identified before Parliament passed the K4 billion allocation.

But, due to pressure from the opposition, the MPs agreed that the amount should be shared by all the 193 constituencies, meaning each will get K20.7 million.

The press briefing, ended before journalists finished their questions, as Gondwe was rushing to continue tabling money bills in the House.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) shadow minister of Finance, Joseph Njobvuyalema, has put his weight behind the government on the allocation of K20.7 million to all constituencies across the country.

He also highlights the significance of having Parliament approve the allocation.

“The K4 billion has now been distributed to all constituencies. This is as a result of requirements of constitutional provisions Section 173 (3), which provides that any money avai lable should be determined by Parliament on how it should be used,” Njobvuyalema said.

He added: “As you are aware, government on its own identified some savings in the budget and, without consultations with Parliament, they allocated that money to some 86 constituencies, which was not right. Which was unconstitutional, which was illegal. What I can say is that the money has been normalised, the money has now been allocated to all constituencies.”

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