Former fierce government critic now Cabinet minister Kamlepo Kalua has questioned disparities in the allocation of house allowance or rent to the country’s former presidents and vice-presidents, saying he suspects fraud and corruption.
In an interview in Mzuzu on Friday on the sidelines of a governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) rally, Kalua, who is Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development opened an investigation into the matter. claimed that his ministry has opened an investigation into the matter
He said his office has noted the disparities which, he said, show that former vice-president Khumbo Kachali (April 2012 to May 2014) gets three times the house rent or allowance allocated to former president Bakili Muluzi (May 1994 to May 2004) and another former vice-president Cassim Chilumpha (May 2004 to May 2009).
Said Kalua: “I have just discovered that the right honourable Khumbo Kachali is paid three times more [for house rent] than the others.
“Dr. Cassim Chilumpha is being paid K425 000 per month as entitlement for his house, Dr. Bakili Muluzi gets K500 000 monthly, but right honourable Khumbo Kachali is paid K1.7 million. This is corruption.”
But in a telephone interview yesterday, Kachali said he was not aware that government pays up to K1.7 million monthly for his house.
He said: “All I know is that I am entitled to a house as former vice-president and I have a house befitting my status. As to how much is paid and to who, it is none of my business. In fact, I don’t even know the owner of this house.”
Kachali said at the expiry of his term in the Office of the Vice-President in May 2014, government identified four houses for him to choose one he would be comfortable to live in and he said his family opted for the one in Area 43 in Lilongwe.
He said: “I have been living in this house since then . Government pays the rent and they are supposed to do periodic maintenances. But ever since I moved in, I do maintenances on my own. No officer or owner has come to maintain it. I don’t even know how much is paid in rentals.”
Under the Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act, former presidents and former vice-presidents are entitled to several benefits, including housing, free utilities—water, telephone and electricity, specified staff, security, pension, medical aid, motor vehicles, sponsored holidays and importation of duty-free vehicles once every five years.
In terms of housing, the law states: “Except where a house is provided at government expense, a monthly housing allowance equal to 40 percent of his salary at the time of ceasing to hold office [either as President or Vice- President].”
Perhaps, the legal provision could explain the purported disparity as salaries for the President and Vice-President have been revised over the years since Muluzi left office.
During the interview, Kalua also said the ministry he is heading “is the most corrupt ministry in the country” fraught with “parallel structures” that facilitate corrupt practices.
He said land is being allocated to foreigners and that Malawians have been taken out of the system.
Said the minister: “The President gave me the mandate to clean-up the ministry. And that is what I am doing without his interference. I am restructuring the ministry by changing the staff and transferring them because I want cleanliness. gave me the mandate to
“I have put all application files for title deeds aside. I want them to explain to me how they acquired the land. The staff in the ministry are jittery now.
“ I can not allow Malawians to suffer in their country. Land is going to be given to Malawians. I am not in favour of land being given to foreigners. Land should be given to Malawians.”
Kalua’s sentiments on corruption at the ministry echo what the ministry’s Principal Secretary Joseph Mwandidya told the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament last November that the ministry was “infested with corruption, abuse of of f ice and maladministration”.
He said: “Let me say it without hiding, the Ministry of Lands is rotten. There is no need to hide it. There is too much corruption taking place and people have been duped through a syndicate which I am glad has been busted on land sales. There is more that we need to do about it.”
In recent years, issues of land scams have been common with victims, including some Cabinet ministers and high-ranking government officials, duped by the conmen who posed as Lands officials.