Government has announced that it will share the K4 billion initially earmarked for development in 86 constituencies to all 193 after the opposition in Parliament questioned the criteria for selecting beneficiaries.
But the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) insists that Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development should disclose the source of the money as it is not appearing in the budget.
Making the announcement on Tuesday after an hour-long adjournment to discuss the way forward on the matter, Leader of the House Kondwani Nankhumwa said both sides of the House have decided to distribute the money equally across the board.
Nankhumwa said the K4 billion had not been disbursed and the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe was seeking authorisation to spend it during the Mid-Term Budget Review.
“We agreed that the budgeted for resources will be shared equally among all 193 constituencies. This means each and every constituency will get K20.7 million,” he said.
Nankhumwa, however, said the money would only be distributed after legislators submit proposals or outlines of projects the money will be used for in their constituencies.
The controversial K4 billion quick grant project, which government says is meant for rural development, was the bone of contention when Parliament resumed yesterday.
If not for queries from the opposition on Monday afternoon, the money was reportedly earmarked for only 86 constituencies belonging to legislators on the government side and those supporting the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), with each constituency being allocated about K40 million.
On Monday afternoon, the opposition legislators took Gondwe to task on source of the money and the criteria used to select the 86 constituencies. They also called for the minister’s resignation, claiming he had breached the law.
Both Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the Peoples Party (PP) through their whips, Lobin Lowe and Roy Kachale respectively, confirmed Nankhumwa’s message, saying the meeting had indeed agreed that money would be distributed equally across the board.
But in an interview with The Nation after the resolution was announced, PAC chairperson Alekeni Menyani insisted that government should first explain the source of the money before distributing it.
“The issue here is not just about having the money. We need to know the source of the money first. If you recall, yesterday we recommended that the Anti- Corruption Bureau needs to be involved in this. If the [government] are able to explain the source of the funds, then we can talk of equal distribution,” he said.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, under Vote 120, had an approved K11.4 billion in the approved recurrent budget for which Gondwe is seeking an increment of K2.2 billion. However, the K4 billion is not part of the increment.
Gondwe is quoted as having said he got the money “from somewhere”, but he is yet to respond to the queries and specify the source of the contentious funds.