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MPs question Greenbelt vote

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Lilongwe Mapuyu South, Joseph Njobvuyalema, Tuesday asked the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to justify the continued approval of funding to the Greenbelt Authority, a government entity established under no known Act of Parliament.

Njobvuyalema’s observation came during committee of supply in which MPs approve or reject budgetary allocations to individual government entities.

As part of its public service reforms agenda, the government formed the Greenbelt Authority in 2015, as a separate and independent entity, to replace Bingu wa Mutharika’s-initiated the Greenbelt Initiative, which was under the Office of the President and Cabinet.

The move was meant to facilitate the long-term aspirations of becoming a producing and exporting nation.

When Gondwe asked lawmakers to accept that the approved provision of K300 million on vote Number 098 for Greenbelt Authority be revised upwards to K412, 334, 817, Njobvuyalema said the minister risks contravening the laws if he continues allocating money to an entity which, according to Parliament, does not exist.

“We were told that the bill would be brought into this House for an Act that will legitimise the existence of this Greenbelt Authority. Where is it? This House cannot continue approving funds for an entity that Parliament never approved. What legal provision are we using to fund this body? Do we have any Act for this [Greenbelt] Authority?” Njobvuyalema asked.

Another MCP legislator, Richard Chimwendo Banda, rose and said the illegal authority has also achieved nothing in the past six months to deserve an upward adjustment of its allocation.

“We are not saying we are not going to pass this vote but, apart from the fact that the [Greenbelt] Authority is not legally approved by this House, it is almost non-existent in terms of activities. What have they done in the past six months for us to continue funding them?” Chimwendo Banda queried.

While admitting that there is no Act on which the authority is based, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Samuel Tembenu, said the funding is meant for the trust, which is operating, and the government is using the Appropriation Act which Parliament itself approved.

“It doesn’t require an Act of Parliament to give this trust money. We are using the Appropriation Act which we approved in this same House,” Tembenu said.

He, however, said the government would table a bill to ensure that the Greenbelt Authority is premised on an Act of Parliament.

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