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Parliament approves OPC, State residences allocations

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Sosten Gwengwe

Parliament Thursday agreed to increase allocations to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and State residences with about K7 billion and K5, billion, respectively.

In the 2022-23 national budget, the OPC was allocated K22.3 billion but the figure has now been revised to K29.2 billion while the allocation to State residences has been increased from K14.5 billion to K19. 6 billion.

The august House went into Committee of Supply Thursday, when it started scrutinising allocations to ministries, departments and agencies vote by vote under the 2022-23 budget review exercise.

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At some point, the House nearly went into division on the State residences vote because members of the opposition sought clarification on the adjustment.

The opposition side was later satisfied with what Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Sosten Gwengwe said that there was under-budgeting at State residences, hence the need to increase the allocation.

“He [Gwengwe] indicated that it is purely [about] poor planning. It looks like when they were planning for the year at State residences, they under-planned. For example, we had Sadc [Southern African Development Community] meetings that happened this year. Instead of them putting the correct amount to be used for Sadc activities, they under-budgeted,” Budget Committee Chairperson Gladys Ganda told journalists.

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On OPC vote, Ganda also stood in Parliament seeking an explanation on the cause of the K7 billion increase, to which Gwengwe said the funds were meant to be channelled to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma).

He said Dodma will use the funds to bail out people who are facing hunger.

She also queried why the Ministry of Local Government vote was reduced by almost half, to K6 billion from K12.7 billion.

“The response of the Minister of Finance is worrisome because he says some councils have not utilised their capital budget. What it means is that we are failing to serve our people,” she said.

Ganda has since indicated that committee members will trace councils that have not utilised their budgets.

After adjournment, Gwengwe told journalists that the 2022-23 budget is a difficult budget, as it is coming with fiscal consolidation measures.

He said this means not bloating allocations.

“It is one way of us containing inflation so that, on the fiscal side, we are not seen to be reckless with spending to have our budget deficit reduced to 7.1 percent of our GDP [gross domestic product] from 8.3 percent.

“We think that the less we borrow to fund our budgets, the safer [we are],” he said.

Gwengwe Thursday completed general debate on 2022-23 mid-year budget review before entering into the Committee of Supply.

The committee of supply is expected to continue today.

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