‘What’re you doing with the money?’
Budget and Finance committee of Parliament curious about state residences’ ‘endless’ renovations projects
By Cathy Maulidi
In the 2022-2023 national budget, government allocated K1 billion for rehabilitation of a fence at State Residences.
The figure was later revised to K615 million.
The 2023-24 capital budget indicates that state residences will use K1 billion to rehabilitate a security fence.
It further indicates that replacement and rehabilitation of plants and equipment at state residences will cost K2 billion while rehabilitation at Kamuzu, Sanjika and Mtunthama palaces will cost K1.5 billion.
In total, government has allocated K4.5 billion for rehabilitation costs alone for state residences.
In the 2023-24 K3.78 trillion budget, Treasury has allocated K24 billion to state residences.
The maintenance allocations have left the Budget and Finance Committee asking: What exactly does State House want to use these “huge amounts” for.
Chairperson of the committee, Gladys Ganda, told Malawi News Friday that the allocations are huge in comparison to the challenges the country is facing, more so because government has been allocating similar figures in the past fear for the same purpose.
“For over past three years, government has allocated over K5 billion to rehabilitate state houses. And we have another huge sum? For what? They should first account for what the previous allocations did,” Ganda said.
In March 2021, President Lazarus Chakwera relocated to Mtunthama State Lodge to pave way for renovations at Kamuzu Palace. State House blamed former president Peter Mutharika for running down the residence, hence the renovations.
Ganda feared that State House may be abusing the resources as more funds are being allocated without any accountability.
However, Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe is on record to have told Parliament that the State Residences are in bad shape and require serious rehabilitation.
“We do have broken lifts at Kamuzu Palace and it is not good for dignified guests to be climbing stairs. Even if there is someone with disabilities and wants to access some offices, they will struggle because there are some other things that are broken down and we need to fix them.
“Talking about Sanjika Palace, the piping, the plumbing is really archaic and old and I know there are times when the President wanted to visit but he was stopped from going there because they wanted to do some makeshift maintenances. This cannot go on. We need to allocate resources for these maintenances,” Gwengwe said.
When contacted, to explain what fence did government rehabilitate in the previous budget and which fence do they plan to renovate this year with the K1 billion, Gwengwe referred us to State House.
“State Residence Director may have details or Chief of Staff. I know that all state residences have fences but the Chief of Staff would be more specific,” he said.
In his response, Chakwera’s spokesperson Anthony Kasunda has said the funds that were allocated in the previous budget were for the rehabilitation of Kamuzu Palace fence while the K1 billion allocated in the current budget will be used to rehabilitate all state residences’ fences but Sanjika Palace will be priority.
However, Ganda said there is need for a cutoff point to these rehabilitation works, adding “We can’t be rehabilitating the State Houses every year.”
One Member of Parliament who also expressed concern with the costs said government MPs are in majority in Parliament and they are abusing Parliament to approve things that are not beneficial to Malawians.
“A lot of things are going wrong. Non-state actors and donors must come in to assist,” the MP said.