Pressure mounts on K4 billion payout
Pressure continues to mount on the government and the opposition over the K4 billion which Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, has decided to disburse to all the 193 constituencies in the country despite failing to properly explain how the money was acquired.
Initially, the money had been earmarked for 86 constituencies before Gondwe announced, after being pressured by the opposition, that all Members of Parliament (MPs) would benefit.
At one point, the Finance Minister claimed that the money was saved from readjustments of the 2017/18 budget despite that the reduction in the financial blueprint during the mid-year review was reportedly necessitated by inadequate taxes and poor performance of grants.
Gondwe also told Parliament that the money was from a donor that did not want to be named.
However, Gondwe’s justification has not been convincing enough to civil society organisations (CSOs), notably the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) which, in a statement made available to The Daily Times, condemns the procedure followed in allocating the funds.
CHRR says the funds have been allocated “without appropriate approvals and with no accountability by the Legislature”.
“Each passing day brings with it fresh and painful evidence of the swindlers we have in government… We are at a loss to understand how the opposition in Parliament would leave it just like that and see the leading ministries of this malpractice go free despite committing this huge accountability blunder in history,” reads the statement signed by CHRR Executive Director Timothy Mtambo.
Mtambo further hits at Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Lazarus Chakwera, for arguing that they acted to ensure there is no record in Parliament indicating that the opposition allowed the illegal act of spending taxpayers’ money without the lawmakers’ approval.
According to CHRR, such a statement i s hypocritical because the opposition is party to the scandal by agreeing to share the K4 billion.
“Instead of standing with the people, the opposition has opted to enter into an evil pact with government.
The country is left in confusion as to what is the hope for this country if both the opposition and those in government are the same.
“The Leader of Opposition must know that it is wrong to legalise evil and that two wrongs do not make [a] right. Malawians will be and must be the best judges on this historical blunder,” CHRR says.
The CSO has since implored Malawians to rise up and demand accountability and justice “now that the whole House of representatives has betrayed the nation”.
It has also reiterated calls made by others that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should ensure it gets to the bottom of the matter, considering that, initially, the money had been earmarked for lawmakers who shot down the Electoral Reforms (Amendment) Bills.
“We are also calling upon President [Peter] Mutharika to, as a matter of urgency, give an explanation to Malawian as to how he, as CEO [Chief Executive Officer] for the country, approved such a malpractice,” CHRR says.
CHRR further says, from the way the K4 billion issue has been handled, it is clear that local politicians do not care about the country, such that, when money is involved, MPs are always eager to bury their differences.
CHRR is not the only organisation that has condemned MPs over the manner they have handled the issue. Barely a day after Leader of the House, Kondwani Nankhumwa, told the public that the money would be distributed equally to all the lawmakers, CSOs joined forces to demand the withdrawal of the transaction.
Youth and Society Executive Director, Charles Kajoloweka— whose organisation is part of CSOs that have, in a petition, given Gondwe and the government a seven-day ultimatum to rescind the decision or face legal action— has gone to the extent of describing the allocation of the funds as an organised form of corruption.
People’s Federation for National Peace and Development Executive Director, Edward Chaka, said the people, who are the supposed beneficiaries of the funds, should be the best judges.
But Chaka was quick to say integrity should be at the centre of all development endeavours in the country.
University of Livingstonia political commentator, George Phiri, also said there is no morality in sharing the budgetary allocation.
Phiri said there is no way MPs should be bribed in order to advance the cause of national development.
Public Accounts Committee of Parliament Chairperson, Alekeni Menyani, on Tuesday called for engagement of the ACB, stressing his committee wanted to know the source of the money.
The saga was first exposed by our sister paper, Malawi News, of February 24 to March 2.
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