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Ministries, departments and agencies lament low funding

As Parliament winds up cluster meetings

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Williams Banda

As Parliament’s cluster meetings, where lawmakers have been scrutinising sectors of the 2022-23 National Budget, may end today, The Daily Times has learned that most government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) want additional funds.

After Finance Minister Sosten Gwengwe unveiled the K2.84 trillion national budget in Parliament on February 18 2022, the august House spared two weeks for cluster meetings.

During the cluster meetings, controlling officers from MDAs were invited to justify their budgets and, where need be, ask for additional resources.

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Legal Affairs and Government Assurance Cluster Chairperson Peter Dimba said most MDAs the committee engaged lamented inadequate funding, citing it as one of the factors that would hamper their operations in the coming fiscal year.

“Most of them have had a small increase as compared to this current financial year. In our case, it is only the Legal Aid Bureau that got less as compared to this year. There is quite a deficit,” he said.

Cluster members also met with officials from the Judiciary and Law Commission as well as those from the office of the Registrar General, among others.

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Health and HIV and Aids Cluster Chairperson Matthews Ngwale said some of the allocations under health were not impressive although other votes seem to have been increased.

“They [MDAs] are demanding that we, as Parliament, should fight for more resources from the government,” he said.

Cluster members met with officials from the Ministry of Health, Medical Council of Malawi, Nurses and Midwives Council of Malawi and National Aids Commission, among others.

Reacting to calls for additional funding, Treasury spokesperson Williams Banda said resources were usually not enough.

He said, this notwithstanding, institutions always want more resources for effective implementation of their programmes.

Banda said Ministry of Finance officials allocated resources as per MDAs’ duly submitted strategic requirements.

“As per our theme, ‘Accelerating Implementation Towards Wealth Creation, Job Creation and Food Security’, the budget is addressing issues of public debt management, export diversification and import substitution,” Banda said.

Reports from clusters will be taken to the Treasury for consideration following feedback from MDAs.

The Budget and Public Accounts Cluster is expected to finalise the report this weekend, according to its chairperson Gladys Ganda.

“A report will be presented to Parliament on Monday,” she said.

The budget is pegged at K2.84 trillion, with the ministries of education and agriculture topping the list.

A budget analysis by the Malawi Economic Justice Network found that there was a glaring misalignment of the 2022-23 National Budget and the Malawi 2063 Implementation Plan 1 (MIP-1), with MIP-1 estimates being lower than budgetary estimates.

Meanwhile, Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) has said MDAs should learn to prioritise programmes.

Ecama Executive Director Frank Chikuta also said MDAs had to find means of raising revenue other than waiting for the Central Government alone.

He said, in the 2021-22 National Budget, for example, expenditure funds for MDAs increased but the institutions did not have other means of raising revenue, hence the budget deficit widened.

“MDAs should acknowledge that they are in this situation and prioritise initiatives that will move this country forward because, if they will not learn to prioritise, we will have problems [with service delivery],” he said.

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