Opposition parties reject K9bn bill
Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and People’s Party (PP) on Wednesday shot down a government bill seeking authorisation to borrow about K9.8 billion from European Investment Bank (EIB).
The funds are meant to finance the upgrading of essential aviation safety and security equipment at Kamuzu and Chileka international airports.
After noting the trend of the arguments, Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, was forced to temporarily withdraw the bill so that Parliamentary Committee on Transport should scrutinize concerns raised by the two political parties.
When tabling the Bill, Gondwe said among others, the money would be used for installation of surveillance equipment, navigation equipment comprising of existing Very High Frequency (VHF) and Direction Finder (VDF), meteorological equipment and runway visual range.
The money would also be used for installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) link to tower and upper station link, completion of taxiway, and purchase of rescue fire-fighting services and x-ray machines.
At Chileka International Airport, some of the projects earmarked were equipment for communication, navigation and meteorology. The Bill also aimed to upgrade perimeter road and new airfield lighting equipment.
But speaking through Mzimba Solola MP, Jacob Hara, said it was surprising that most of the equipment which government said it would purchase were obsolete. He cited VDF (Direction Finder) as equipment which is not required in modern airports.
“This piece of equipment locates the position of an aircraft using Very High frequencies. International civil aviation is now migrating from ground-based equipment to satellite based equipment…DPP please wake up from your colour dreams. We are now in the e-world,” Hara said.
He also said completion of taxiway at KIA was already done about four years ago under the late Bingu wa Mutharika administration.
He also noted a duplication of projects, highlighting that on Friday, Ministry of Transport signed agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) on a number of activities Japan will be funding.
He said surveillance radar items, CCTV link, x-ray machines and baggage screening machines were some of the things under the agreement.
“Unless these issues are addressed and amended, we are very concerned with these irregularities and there is no way MCP can pass bills for government to borrow money for items that have been done,” he said.
While concurring with MCP on most issues, PP’s Chitipa South legislator Werani Chilenga wondered why government is ignoring other airfields.
“While money is being wasted like this, Mr. Speaker Sir, other airports are not being taken care of. I’m talking of Mtakataka Police Airwing, Zomba and Old Airport. Lack of equipment there has put our men in uniform at risk,” Chilenga said.
He added: “PP feels this Bill should go back to the drawing board.”
Although Minister of Transport, Francis Kasaila made some clarifications on the issues the two MPs raised, Gondwe referred the matter to the Transport Committee.
“This is a very technical subject. The Bill should be transferred to a committee of Parliament to look at it. We really have to think hard,” Gondwe said.
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