The Budget and Finance Committee of Parliament and the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) have faulted government’s explanation that proceeds from the sale of the presidential jet at $15 million (about K6.3 billion) did not reach government coffers, saying it begs more questions.
The committee has also described as unconstitutional and illegal the move government made to facilitate the transfer of the $15 million from the winning bidder of the jet, Bohnox Enterprises, to its parent company, Paramount Group to offset part of the $19.2 million debt in respect to supply of military equipment.
Minister of Finance Maxwell Mkwezalamba told journalists in Lilongwe on Wednesday that Cabinet agreed that Bohnox Enterprises should pay Paramount Group to clear part of the arrears upon realising, albeit too late, that the winning bidder was associated with the arms supplier.
This was contrary to what Minister of Information and Civic Education Brown Mpinganjira said a few weeks ago that the jet was sold.
However, this transaction and subsequent reallocations in the national budget towards purchase of maize and drugs as planned did not have the blessing of Parliament, a move chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee Francis Kasaila described as unconstitutional.
Citing Section 172 of the Constitution which states that all revenue to government “shall” be deposited into the Consolidated Fund before passing of necessary Appropriation Bills, Kasaila said the Executive had authorised expenditure of revenue belonging to Malawians without Parliament approval.
Said Kasaila: “We are being sold dog meat once again. There are so many unanswered questions in this transaction. Why was buying military equipment so urgent that it couldn’t wait for Parliament? If government saw the need to spend extra money, they could have used the Parliament meeting in October to seek authorisation, but they lied to the nation that we had received proceeds from the jet sale.”
He said authorising the transfer of the funds before they even reached the Consolidated Fund could not be an emergency as provided for in Section 177 of the Constitution.
But in response to the irregularity of the transaction, Mkwezalamba said the Ministry of Finance sought legal opinion from the Attorney General who assured them that the transaction could be normalised in the mid-term budget whose plan is uncertain or budget of 2014/15 in June.
CCJP, which also demanded an explanation on the jet sale, said Malawians have been cheated by various quarters of government and the latest explanation could not be trusted.
“Government never wanted this to come out in the open. We were told money from the jet was used to buy maize and drugs, but there is no proof of this. How many things has government done without our knowledge? If they can do something so heinous, what else have they done?” CCJP national coordinator Chris Chisoni wondered.