Peter Mutharika shelves plans for multipurpose hall
President Peter Mutharika has suspended the construction of a multipurpose hall at Kamuzu Palace and has, instead, directed that a marquee should be erected, Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe announced in Parliament Thursday afternoon.
Gondwe was responding to queries from Members of Parliament (MPs) who pressed him to explain whether State House was going ahead with the project at a time a number of ministries, departments and agencies have had their allocations reduced.
On Monday, Gondwe was forced to defer the State Residences vote after failing to convince opposition MPs on how the multipurpose hall-dubbed banquet hall-was being handled by government.
This was despite the fact that the vote had its allocation reduced from K5.4 billion to K5 billion.
When the matter resurfaced in the chamber yesterday, after Gondwe had presented the vote again, opposition MPs still demanded answers on whether the hall was one of Mutharika’s priorities.
In his response to the queries, Gondwe said he had consulted and had been told that it was not the intention of the Mutharika administration or State House to put up a banquet.
“We are now in a very difficult situation and the so-called banquet hall is not going to be constructed…[However], some funds will be needed for the design and preparatory work in case the hall will be constructed in the next financial year,” said Gondwe.
He added: “The President has decided that probably what we should do is to use some money to construct a marquee… for the sake of state functions that take place at State House… You know we had a marquee before but it was damaged [by a storm].”
MP for Rumphi East, Kamlepo Kalua, who was one of the opposition lawmakers who had vehemently protested against the construction of the multipurpose hall, informed Gondwe that he was now convinced.
Said Kalua before the vote got the nod of the legislators: “We’ve heard the explanation as I did request. We don’t have any problem with government doing that but we want explanations and clarifications. That has been done.”
From the day the MPs started scrutinising allocations t o different ministries, departments and agencies, opposition MPs have been accusing Gondwe of failing to provide proper prior explanations on what the allocations will be used for.
They further challenged cabinet ministers to be defending the allocations to their ministries rather than leaving everything to the Finance Minister who they argued could not be completely aware of projects in other ministries.
From then, cabinet ministers have on their own been defending allocations to their ministries with Gondwe just providing some additional backing.
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