By Justin Mkweu, Mathews Kasanda & Mandy Pondani:
Motorcades of two Cabinet ministers who were on different assignments in the Southern Region have drawn public remonstration as it is thought the vehicles were too many.
This, others opined, was against the philosophy of public reforms and austerity measures that the Tonse Alliance-led government has been advocating.
However, the two ministers, while admitting that their entourage was big, explained that not all the vehicles came from their respective ministries, rather from government departments and other institutions, which are stakeholders in the projects the ministers were attending to.
Minister of Agriculture, Lobin Lowe, was in the Lower Shire on familiarisation tour while Minister of Transport, Sidik Mia, was in Thyolo District where he inspected the construction of Thyolo-Thekerani to Makhanga road and East Bank road Wednesday.
The two ministers are said to have a combined motorcade of close to 60 vehicles.
Lowe, who was accompanied by his deputy, Agnes Nkusankhoma, visited five places in the Lower Shire which are Nkhate Irrigation Scheme, Chilengo Irrigation Scheme, Kasinthula Research Station, Nyambalomba Cooperative and Yadidi Nyama Cooperative.
By the time the minister was leaving the spot of inspection, Yadidi Nyama Cooperative, the convoy had more than 17 cars with 11 of those bearing Malawi Government’s number plates. By that time, some cars had left the convoy.
Speaking after the function Lowe—after noting the public outcry—said the conclusion that all vehicles were from the ministry is wrong because most of the cars were from other departments of government.
“Only seven cars were from the Ministry of Agriculture while the rest were from the District Commissioner’s [Office], some projects, farmers and many other departments who came voluntarily,” Lowe said.
According to reports, the initial number of government cars during the visit was 28.
On the other hand, Mia dismissed the assertion that he used about 27 vehicles when he toured the construction of Thyolo Thekerani to Makhanga road and East Bank road.
The minister instead, as confirmed by our reporter who was also on the same tour, had four vehicles some carrying his deputy and some ministry officials. Road Authority had also its fleet that carried some dignitaries including the media team.
However, the other vehicles that brought the total to about 25, were from different institutions including contractors such as Motal Engil, Plem Construction and Railway departments that were to brief the minister on the progress and challenges they are facing.
“I have toured three projects today, and all these have their own contractors, there are different contractors. They have got engineers, directors and different people in different capacities who serve the same interest, therefore it is not my duty to stop them from using different vehicles,” said Mia.
On his part government spokesperson Gospel Kazako said Mia and Lowe are responsible ministers that are committed to complimenting President Chakwera’s commitment of cutting on government extravagance.
“Certainly there were no 54 vehicles, the million-dollar question is whether all those vehicles were government vehicles. In Tonse Alliance government we are under strict instructions to look after government resources,” Kazako said.