Some civil society organisations (CSOs) have demanded the immediate resignation of Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe over his role in the impending disbursement of K4 billion development fund to legislators.
But State House has branded the call ridiculous and sheer ignorance on the roles of Finance Minister and Parliament.
In a statement issued yesterday, the CSOs also want President Peter Mutharika to address the nation on the issue, saying his silence is suspicious.
Reads the statement in part: “Section 12 (iii) of the Constitution states that the authority to exercise power of State is conditional upon the sustained trust of the people of Malawi and that trust can only be maintained through open, accountable and transparent Government and informed democratic choice.”
“We, members of the civil society, thus, wonder where the Finance Minister found the audacity to unilaterally source the funds, decide how to use the funds and decide who to give the funds to. This is unacceptable.”
The CSOs, include Youth and Society (YAS), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR), Centre for Development of People (Cedep), Human Rights Consultative Council (HRCC), as well as rights activists Reverend Macdonald Sembereka and Billy Mayaya, have further challenged Mutharika to fire Gondwe if he does not resign.
YAS is led by Charles Kajoloweka, CHRR by Timothy Mtambo and while Cedep is led by Gift Trapence.
The CSOs have questioned government’s logic in giving MPs the money when they are at the centre of abusing Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
They have also renewed calls for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and parliamentary Public Accounts and Budget and Finance committees to investigate the matter.
Reads the statement further: “Cognisant of the fact that the country is still reeling from the bitter aftertaste of Cashgate uncovered in 2013, the recent K4 billion saga has only heightened and confirmed our long-held fears that the plunder of public resources still remains the country’s elusive vice.”
In the statement, they also want Mutharika to address the nation on the matter, arguing his silence could be construed that he has silently endorsed the matter.
“If Goodall Gondwe does not resign, we call upon the President of the Republic of Malawi Peter Mutharika to fire Goodall Gondwe as Minister of Finance. We expect the President to distance his government from the conduct displayed by Mr. Goodall Gondwe,” reads the statement in parts.
Gondwe could not be reached for comment when called yesterday, but in an earlier interview with The Nation, he insisted the money was from taxes, grants and borrowing and was saved from re-adjustments of the 2017/18 budget that saw cuts to the development budget.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development KondwaniNankhumwa could also not pick up his phone on several attempts.
However, State House press secretary Mgeme Kalilani said in an interview the CSOs needed to vent their anger on MPs who approved the said package.
He reminded the CSOs that the role of the Finance Minister in public funds appropriation is to present and where need be, explain appropriation proposals before Parliament.
“In the case of the constituency project funds allocations, the whole House, including the opposition side, approved it. How then should the Minister of Finance be blamed for a decision that our members of Parliament collectively made?
“I find the call for the Minister of Finance to resign or get fired on the basis of the project funds allocations completely ridiculous,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chancellor College political analyst Ernest Thindwa said while the call is necessary, the feasibility of Gondwe resigning is doubtful, arguing Malawi is a society where voluntary resignation is not practised.
He said: “Where holders of public office are seen not to be performing to the expectations of the public, that public is entitled to demand resignation of such individual. However, there is a culture in this country where people don’t resign. So I don’t see Gondwe resigning…”
Thindwa urged the CSOs to start engaging the masses more on such issues of national importance.
On his part, University of Livingstonia (Unilia) political analyst George Phiri said the ideal situation would be for Mutharika to fire Gondwe.
“Resignation would not be proper, it could only work if he [Gondwe] was fighting a corrupt system and thinks he cannot withstand the pressure. So in this case, firing him would be a better option,” said Phiri.
Capital Hill has argued that the money, termed quick grant project, is meant for rural development.
At first, the money was reportedly earmarked for only 86 constituencies belonging to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators and those who supported the quashing of the Electoral Reforms Bills in Parliament last December. Each constituency was earmarked to receive K40 million.
But after the media reported the issue and debate ensued, Nankhumwa, as Leader of the House, said the money would be distributed equally among the 193 constituencies, with each constituency receiving K20 million.