Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday queried proposed allocations in the State House budget, noting that priorities are upside down and some budget lines appear more than once.
In her contribution, Balaka West MP Patricia Dzimbiri (Independent) took to task director of State Residences Peter Mukhito on the need for a banquet hall worth K250 million at a time Malawians are feeling the pinch of an economy on its deathbed.
Dzimbiri, a former first lady, said: “Why should such a huge amount of money be allocated to such an activity at such a time when donors have put their foot down on aid?
“Why should we cough so much money supporting that when we can prioritise other burning issues such as maintenance of vehicles at State House?”
Former vice-president Khumbo Kachali, who is MP for Mzimba South West (People’s Party-PP), described the planned banquet hall as irrelevant.
He said the funds should be channelled to other priority areas.
In his response, Mukhito said the marquee, which was being used for the past years, was blown off and they want to invest in a permanent structure.
He said: “You see, over K6 million was blown off together, but if we had a hall, all these would not be issues. And what we are saying is that this hall will be built in phases, I really do not see the issue here, but anyway, we are reworking it.”
Another contentious issue was the 100 percent increment in allowances for State House staff, progress of State House clinic, and presidential activities which the Public Appointments Committee of Parliament felt was on the higher side.
During the meeting, State House summary of achievements gave the impression that most of the activities had been successful and were finalised, but flipping through the pages, the same activities reappeared.
Reads the summary: “All the affairs of the Head of State were facilitated and provided for, construction of a brick fence continued around Kamuzu and Sanjika palaces, five State Residences were maintained to the high standard required as well as irrigation systems around five State residences rehabilitation.”
But the MPs again wondered why State House was requesting extra money for already finalised construction projects.
Mangochi Monkey Bay MP Ralph Jooma asked whether construction of a clinic at State House had begun.
In his response, Mukhito said the money is for a state-of-the-art equipment for malaria tests and other equipment as residents within State House travel outside the compound just to undergo a simple malaria test.
“I think the summary is an oversight, there are other activities which have not been finalised, for instance the water pipes at State House are all corroded and we have to use the temporary ones and you know very well how expensive this can be and the money is for such things.
“As for the allowances, I think government has increased salaries and these also fall under such; hence, the increase, I think there is no issue here,” he said.
Committee chairperson Lingson Belekanyama said the State House vote needed to be re-worked to focus on priority areas.