Parliament blows K300m
The executive arm of government and Parliament are on a collision course following the former’s accusations that the National Assembly unnecessarily blew over K300 million on four top of the range vehicles in sheer defiance of a moratorium against vehicle purchases by government departments due to tough economic climate.
The vehicles are the state of the art Toyota Landcruiser V8 costing about K96 million for Speaker Richard Msowoya and three Toyota Prado VXs costing K80 million each for Leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera and the two deputy Speakers.
Msowoya, has since “marveled at the wisdom” of government questioning the purchases that were legitimate and done in the interest of the smooth discharging of the duties of the officers responsible.
Amid the economic troubles the country is going through at the moment, government has made reference to what it says Parliament’s lack of frugality shown in the purchase of those vehicles as a symptom of the problem of reckless spending by government departments.
Minister of Information, Tourism and Civic Education, Jappie Mhango, has singled out this procurement as one of those that are responsible for the current economic woes.
He said the procurement defied government’s directive against vehicle purchases.
“Government banned the procurement of new vehicles across all departments including Parliament. That is why right now, Cabinet ministers are using old vehicles because government is keen on saving resources. Parliament’s move is therefore strange and disturbing,” he said.
Mhango said it was selfish that four people at Parliament should be using “fuel guzzlers” while Malawians have to tighten their belts as the economy negotiates through the troubled waters.
Asked when the vehicles were purchased, Mhango said he did not know, while insisting that they were purchased against the background of a government ban of procurement of new vehicles.
“The fact is that there was a directive to that effect. It beats understanding therefore that Parliament opted against that directive so that four people live in luxury,” he said.
And when asked whether there would be any sanctions, Mhango said:
“What do we do? The vehicles were bought. They want to live in comfort while everyone else has to make do with the little at their disposal. There is nothing we can do because there is no law with which to discipline them,” he said.
Mhango said such expenditure was one of the reasons why the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has pronounced Malawi’s economic programme off track.
That pronouncement has been interpreted as a bringer of doom to Malawi’s economy.
“The other reason [for the programme to go off track] is that the wage bill is too huge partly because the MPs (Members of Parliament) demanded a pay increment and they got it. Cabinet ministers have not had salary increments such that MPs are getting more at the moment than what a Deputy Minister gets for a salary.
“The MPs also pressed for the hiking of the Constituency Development Fund [CDF]. That’s why the economic programme has gone off track. The problem is that our MPs are always militant and they want to have things their way or they will sabotage other government processes. The result is that Malawians pay the price,” he said.
In his reaction on the vehicles, Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya, laughed off Mhango’s claims.
“It’s true Parliament purchased those vehicles as soon as we got into office last year. There is nothing new that has happened on this matter.
“And they are not personal vehicles. They are official ones. They are meant to enable us discharge our duties. Now, honestly I really marvel at the wisdom of anyone questioning about these vehicles. Are they saying we have to commute when on official assignments? I really marvel at such wisdom,” he said.
The crossing of paths between the executive and Parliament started last month when the Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament argued that votes linked to the presidency should be revised downwards – in response to IMF’s call for cuts in public expenditure.
Chairperson of the committee Rhino Chiphiko said then his committee expected that during the mid-year budget review slated for next January, government would make cuts to funding allocations for Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and the Vice-President’s allocations, among others.
Chiphiko also suggested that allocations for the Decent and Affordable Housing Subsidy Programme and the Shire- Zambezi Waterway Project should be suspended.
But Mhango lashed back at Chiphiko questioning why he did not cite cuts to National Assembly.
He described Chiphiko’s comment as a display of the double standards on the part of the National Assembly.
Mhango said the executive had already made some sacrifices in the midst of the economic hurdles the country is going through.
“Those sacrifices included living on old salaries and using old vehicles,” he said.
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