Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe has hinted at another zero-aid national budget in the 2016/17 financial year.
The minister said this in Mzuzu on Saturday when he consulted with the public on the upcoming budget as donors keep withholding direct budget support since October 2013 over concerns of Cashgate—the systematic plunder of public resources at Capital Hill.
Said Gondwe: “We will have to do without financial support [from donors]. So, we have to craft the budget in such a way that we meet the development needs of Malawians in view of what we have.
“We will have to start with how much we have and decide what we have to spend on. We will have to be more careful in the way we use our resources and make sure that the question of corruption and misuse of funds is vigorously pursued.”
The minister took a swipe at the struggling health sector, saying time is up for administrators who divert to travel allowances money meant for patients’ food rations and ambulance services.
However, Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka said it was ironic that the minister was speaking about intensifying a crackdown on corrupt practices barely a day after governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had refused a private member’s bill that sought to strengthen the independence of the Anti-Corruption Bureau by ensuring its director is appointed by Parliament—not the President.
Gondwe said the governing bench was against the fact that Lilongwe South West member of Parliament (MP) Peter Chakhwantha (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) and his backers introduced the bill to trim the powers of the President.
He stated that the DPP administration was committed to wean the ACB from external influence, something Church and Society executive director Moses Mkandawire said was critical to regain donor confidence following the closing of aid taps in reaction to Cashgate which has landed the country in financial problems.
Mkandawire asked government to broaden its tax base rather than over-taxing few Malawians in formal employment and corporates.
Gondwe asked for an end to perspectives that donors are useless because the health sector, which draws almost 80 percent of its finances from development partners, would be in “a difficult situation” without foreign injections.
Donors, who collectively contribute about 40 percent to the recurrent budget, suspended their assistance, demanding strengthening of public finance management system, among others.