Leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera has demanded that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) investigates both Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa.
He also wants the two to appear before the Parliamentary Account Committee (PAC) for their roles in the acquisition and distribution of the contentious K4 billion to members of Parliament (MPs).
Chakwera, who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, has since asked the two ministers to voluntarily resign over the issue.
He made the remarks yesterday in Parliament in Lilongwe when winding-up his contribution to the 2017/18 Mid-Term Budget Review.
The leader of opposition suspects that the allocation of K40 million each to 86 MPs was a kick-back for not supporting the Electoral Reforms Bills.
“It is no secret that government, through the Finance minister, was caught red-handed in the act of flouting procedures and violating the law in the acquisition and distribution of K4 billion earmarked for the development of the whole nation,” Chakwera said.
He said Gondwe has made five bad decisions by making contradictory statements on the source of funding, to unilaterally decide that the development funds should be allocated to less than half of the country’s constituencies, to allocate the funds in clandestine fashion, and with no accountability to the august House, and to hide the criteria government used to allocate the funds.
“We did not feel that it would be in the nation’s interest for the government to be reduced to a common criminal, for if the State is criminalised, our very republic would collapse. I wish our Finance minister had not put us in such an impossible situation, to choose between his act of criminalising the government illegally and our act to decriminalising the government legally.
“ But in the valley of decisions, there are no two wishes that turn into horses, and so in the interest of the nation, we have acted to make sure that there is no record in the history of this House that we allowed the illegal act of spending Malawian taxpayers’ money without Parliament approval.”
He added that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led administration should use its newly acquired talent of finding money in mysterious places to find more money and complete projects spelled out in the party’s 2014 manifesto.
However, the sentiments did not go down well with government chief whip Kondwani Nankhumwa who, standing on a Point of Order, pleaded with Speaker Richard Msowoya to rebuke Chakwera for what he said was the use of unparliamentary language such as calling the Minister of Finance a ‘thief’ and ‘criminal’.
On Thursday, Gondwe addressed the media at Parliament Building in Lilongwe, where he reiterated that the K4 billion, which will now be shared among all 193 constituencies and not just 86 as earlier planned, was not budgeted for.
He further said the funding was an experiment outside the current normal mechanisms following complaints of abuse.
“It is a legitimate experiment at new funding modalities for local councils. Our formula was to fund projects identified by the area development committees (ADCs). I think as a country, we should look for other ways of funding local councils because you have complained that CDF [Constituency Development Fund], LDF [Local Development Fund] or DDF [District Development Fund] are being abused. So, we are looking at other ways, we may come to Parliament and say why can’t you make this universal,” said Gondwe.
But his attempts to defend the expenditure fell short of explaining how the money granted to MPs will be disbursed once given to local councils.
Gondwe conceded that while his ministry had agreed with the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development that the projects should be conceptualised by ADCs, he had no idea how constituencies were selected.
In a huge departure from previous statements by the Local Government Ministry and Treasury, Gondwe said the money was not budgeted for in 2017/18 budget but while reviewing the budget, some projects were added.
Both Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo and Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Nankhumwa on Thursday indicated that the money was previously allocated in the 2017/18 Budget, but they fell short of explaining the modalities of the expenditure.
Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament chairperson Rhino Chiphiko has also described the transaction as suspicious.