The office of VicePresident Saulos Chilima faces dwindling pool of resources towards 2019 as Treasury projections indicate the office faces a massive 80 percent cut despite enjoying increased allocation in the 2017/18 National Budget.
Despite the projected budgetary decrease in Chilima’s office that add to speculation on how his office continue being sidelined by theDemocratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, Treasury has projected increased allocation to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and State Residences within the same period.
But Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe has defended the projected cuts from K8.2 billion to about K1.7 billion, saying it is part of austerity measures.
The total budget for the office was adjusted from K4 846 553 838 to K8 296 818 884, but in the next budget it will be reduced to K1 765 665 450 about 26 percent of the current budget and the figure in the 2019/20 budget will be K1 8 3754 5345.
For Other Recurrent Expenditure (ORT), which is used for operations for the Office of the Vice-President, has already seen its budget slashed as it was allocated K4 846 533 936 in the 2016/17 budget, which was revised downwards during the mid-year budget to K4 431 603 105.
In comparison, the total budget for the Presidency was K 54 billion in 2016/17 fiscal year and has been maintained in 2017/18 budget whereas in 2018/19 financial year, it will be slightly adjusted to K55 620 000 000. In 2019/20 fiscal year, it will slightly go up to K57 288 600 000.
Next year ’s budget for State residences is expected to rise to K6.7 billion and in 2019/20 fiscal year, it is projected to be at K7 billion, from the current K6.6 billion.
The OPC’s allocation in the next budget will grow up to K4 441 626 740 and K4 617 510 792 in the 2019/20 budget.
However , in an interview yesterday, Gondwe described the decrease in funding to Chilima’s office as normal and shifted responsibility on the even lower projections for 2018/19 budget allocations to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) team that help Treasury craft the budget.
“Don’t just look at one figure. If you check Volume 2 of office of the Vice-President [vote], there is an increase in allocation for the disaster work it will be doing. Don’t just look at figures of the Vice-President’s office in isolation. There are also figures for Ministry of Finance and other ministries which have not changed.
“The percentage of ORT increment is the same as State House. For the future projections, don’t worry about it. Those are IMF figures, ask IMF for that. Absolutely no politics behind it,” said Gondwe.
Spokesperson for the Vice -President Pilirani Phiri referred the matter to PS for the VicePresidency Chinthu Phiri who said the office was yet to analyse the budget documents cited by Nation on Sunday.
“I am outside town, I am yet to review the Budget, so I cannot comment much,” said Phiri.
Happy Kayuni, a political scientist at Chancellor College, said in an interview, the projections raise a lot of curiosity politically.
“Compared to OPC and other votes, yes, there are political waffles there. I think there is some politics behind it,” said Kayuni.
Quizzed whether past treatment of vice-presidents, including on funding raises even more eyebrows on the projections, Kayuni said there was a need for proper explanation on the projections.
Another prominent political scientist, Joseph Chunga, also from Chancellor College, said while there is no “empirical evidence of political hand”, the figures raises justified questions.
“There might be a formal and official explaination to this, but people should be able to read between the lines. I might not say concretely that there is politics behind all this but look, we need to also crosscheck on whether there is even actual expenditure for the other allocations,” said Chunga.
The country holds presidential elections in 2019 and there has been growing speculation on the political future of Chilima as his position in the ruling DPP/UDF coalition remains unclear and the former corporate executive turned politician holds no official party position.
Previous fallouts between past presidents and their deputies resulted in among others, drastic reduction of funding to their office but the current administration has always insisted that the relationship between incumbent President Peter Mutharika and his deputy, is stronger.