Twenty-thousand traditional leaders, who were promoted by former president Joyce Banda, have been excluded from the 2014/15 National Budget currently being debated in Parliament, Nation on Sunday has learnt.
A report produced after the Cluster for Social and Community Affairs scrutinised the budget shows that Ministry of Local Government was only allocated K650 million for the payment of 25 569 traditional leaders, skipping the 20 000 who were put on the payroll last February.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Local Authority and Rural Development, Harry Njoka Chipeni, said his committee is lobbying Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe to include the chiefs in the budget.
“It was director of chiefs in the Ministry of Local Government who informed us that the honoraria for 20 000 chiefs was not factored in the budget,” Chipeni said.
“This means government will not be able to pay [the] chiefs in the next year. As a committee, we are trying to lobby the Minister of Finance to include the chiefs in the budget,” he said.
The ministry’s spokesperson Muhlabase Mughogho corroborated the exclusion of the chiefs in the budget, saying Treasury was better placed to explain why.
Mughogho, in an e-mail response on Friday, said her ministry had proposed K1.6 billion for the honoraria of 45 569 traditional leaders, including the 20 000, in its provisional budget estimates presented to Treasury.
“However, the budget ceiling discounted the provision for the 20 000 chiefs. Treasury is in a better position to respond to this question,” she explained.
But responding to a questionnaire on how Ministry of Finance intends to address the matter, its spokesperson Nations Msowoya said the Ministry of Local Government was the right institution to respond to the questions since they are responsible for budgeting for this particular item.
Gondwe, who presented a K729 billion budget in Parliament, indicated in an interview recently that the ministry will not increase the estimates of the 2014/15 National Budget.
Former president Joyce Banda instructed the Ministry of Local Government in February to start paying the 20 000 chiefs, bringing the number of traditional leaders on government payroll to 45 569.
According to Mughogho, the Banda administration set aside K132 million for chiefs’ payments for March and April 2014, as government was waiting for this year’s national budget to factor in their honoraria.
But while Mughogho said the chiefs have not received allowances since May, when the two-months allocation elapsed, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Trasizio Gowelo said he was not aware of the exclusion of 20 000 chiefs in the budget.
“Any chief is entitled to honoraria. That is my ministry’s position. I am holding to that policy,” he said.
Gowelo said he was not aware of any political or policy reason that would lead to the exclusion of the 20 000 chiefs from the budget adding: “I will take the wait-and-see position on this matter.”
Providing direction on the payments of chiefs, chapter 22: 03 Section 26 of the Chiefs Act stipulates that all emoluments and allowances for expenses payable under this Act shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament for the purpose.
Traditional leaders in Malawi receive monthly honoraria as follows: paramount chiefs-K50 000, senior chiefs-K30 000, traditional authorities-K18 000, sub chiefs-K8 000, group village headmen-K5 000 and village headmen-K2 500.