Members of Parliament (MPs) from the opposition benches yesterday asked government to act with urgency on by-elections in Lilongwe and Dedza districts, questioning what happened to the K1 billion allocated for the polls.
Rising on a point of Matters of Urgent Public Importance, the legislators took to task Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe to explain why Treasury postponed the by-elections when the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) already indicated the date for holding the same.
In their contributions, the MPs questioned the integrity of government, through the Ministry of Finance, in announcing the postponement of the by-elections.
Lilongwe City North East MP Maxwell Thyolera (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) asked the minister to explain to the House why MEC was overruled.
He said: “Following our own parliamentary standing order number 69, I would like the minister to tell this House why the Treasury chose to postpone the by-elections when all the necessary steps were already taken by MEC to hold the same on 6th June?”
Thyolera said while he appreciated that Treasury said there was no money for holding the by-elections, it was ironical that the same National Assembly passed an Appropriation Bill of K1 billion to cater for any by-election.
He said: “Out of the K1billion we passed here, only half of it was used in the previous by-elections. Where is the other half, since MEC said it wasn’t given the money? We understand that MEC only needed K300 million to hold this by-election, where is the money?”
In his response, Gondwe said MEC had exhausted the K1 billion after spending the same on other activities; hence, there were no funds for the by-elections.
But the minister’s response did not convince the MPs, notably from the opposition, who were overheard saying the minister was confusing himself.
The minister, however, assured that the by-elections will be held in the next financial year beginning July 1 2017.
Said Gondwe: “We have to be careful with how we use our resources; the K1 billion mentioned here was already used. We have proposed a budget for the by-elections and I would like to assure the House that when we have resources, we will hold the by-elections beginning 1st July.”
The minister also clarified that it was not his decision to postpone the by-elections, but said he only communicated to MEC that there were no resources.
But Leader of Opposition in the House, Lazarus Chakwera, said it was unfortunate that the Executive arm of government was now using MEC chairperson Jane Ansah as its spokesperson on issues of elections without informing the Speaker of the National Assembly.
He said it was unwise for government to be boasting of over-collection of taxes by the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) but failing to raise money for key governance functions such as by-elections.
“It is pathetic that we are told there is no money. We could have done the by-elections. Period,” said Chakwera, who is also MCP president.
Leader of People’s Party (PP) in the House, Uladi Mussa, said the decision to postpone the by-elections was one tactic by government to delay the polls as it knows the party in power would not win in the constituencies and wards.
MEC was set to hold by-elections in Lilongwe City South East and Lilongwe Msozi North constituencies as well as Mayani North Ward in Dedza North Constituency and Mtsiliza Ward in Lilongwe City West Constituency.
MEC’s decision to indefinitely postpone by-elections came under fire from analysts who argued that the move disenfranchises people in the affected areas.