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Parliament demands Covid funds management role

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Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Health Mathews Ngwale on Tuesday blamed the Executive branch of the government’s failure to involve oversight parliamentary committees for alleged mismanagement of Covid funds.

He was referring to the mess in the management of K6.2 billion released last year for the government’s Covid response programme.

Ngwale said the committee should have been involved from the point of distribution of funds and be given all the detailed information for easy monitoring of funds use.

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“Parliamentarians have a role to oversee whatever the Executive is doing. Now, the Covid funds were in billions and that money was just being distributed to councils and committees without Parliament’s involvement to see whether the money was doing what it was supposed to do. Now the institutions have abused the money and we are arresting people,” he said.

Ngwale said his committee was not the only one sidelined, citing parliamentary committees such as those of Social Welfare and Legal Affairs as others that were equally overlooked.

“Such developments could have been avoided if the committees were involved. I have been pressing the Minister of Health to be involved and she has scheduled a meeting with the Presidential Taskforce on Covid. I hope, from there, we will have something,” he said.

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But co-Chairperson of the Presidential Taskforce on Covid Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said Parliament was an independent arm of the government and could ably provide oversight functions without an invitation.

“When you are playing an oversight role, you do not need someone to ask you or plead with you to come and do the work. They have a mandate, they can just come anytime, using their resources, and see how we are handling the funds. They have the powers even to summon the taskforce,” she said.

Following revelations of mismanagement of K6.2 billion, which was released in August last year, President Lazarus Chakwera moved fast to suspend heads of 13 clusters for either bringing incomplete documentation or failing to submit weekly expenditure reports as directed.

It was later revealed that most of the funds were used for allowances other than the provision of personal protective equipment.

In January this year, Chakwera also directed the Treasury to release K17.5 billion to aid Malawi’s Covid response.

According to Kandodo Chiponda, only K5 billion has been released for the education cluster.

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