The implementation of a 10 percent contribution towards coronavirus response which former president Peter Mutharika directed to be cut from his salary and that of his Cabinet ministers is shrouded in mystery.
Vice-President Saulos Chilima also committed to donate 100 percent of his estimated K1.7 million salary for three months from February 2020t.
But The Nation‘s efforts to establish how much was obtained from the Cabinet contributions have yielded nothing as authorities failed to explain whether the salary cut was effected or not. Instead, they kept referring The Nation from one government office to the other.
On April 4, Mutharika announced the 10 percent cut from his salary on a televised address in which he unveiled additional measures to address Covid-19 after Malawi registered its first three Covid-19 cases on April 2.
He further ordered the Treasury to establish a Relief Fund through which well-wishers, companies and individuals can support the fight against Covid-19.
Said Mutharika: “I am also directing the Treasury to do the following: Reduce salaries of the President, Cabinet ministers and deputy ministers by 10 percent for three months and direct the resources to the fight against the coronavirus.”
Barely a day later, the Vice-President’s office announced that he would be committing all his salary to the Covid-19 fight.
Said Phiri: “I can confirm that he [the Vice-President] will give 100 percent of his salary towards the fight against Covid-19, this is from now up to three months. Thereafter, he will continue his promise to give 50 percent of his salary to charity.”
When asked how much was realised from the Cabinet contributions, Treasury spokesperson Williams Banda referred The Nation to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) and the Ministry of Health.
He said: “All Covid-19 issues are handled by the Ministry of Health and its Disaster Management Affairs counterpart.”
Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 co-chairperson Dr John Phuka also referred The Nation to Dodma and Ministry of Health whose spokespersons Chipiliro Khamula and Joshua Malango respectively, also referred The Nation back to Treasury, saying it was better placed to know details of the funds.
But Chilima’s press secretary Pilirani Phiri in a separate interview said the Vice-President’s offer to have his entire salary donated towards Covid-19 did not change.
“I can confirm that his commitment to have his salary go to Covid 19 still stands,” he said.
In an interview last Thursday, Khamula said the total requirement for the implementation of the National Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan is K276.74 billion.
So far, Treasury has contributed K7.64 billion out of which K2.48 billion was channelled through the Ministry of Health whereas K5 billion was channelled through Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events for implementation of Covid-19 interventions under clusters and various government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).
He said K3.9 billion was channelled to the Ministry of Health for the procurement of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Other resources, both in cash and kind, were mobilised by various donor and humanitarian partners and were channelled directly to their implementing partners,” said Khamula.
Cash donations channelled through the ministry amounted to just K13.6 million comprising K10 million from Malawi Gaming Board and K3.6 million from the Comesa Competition Commission.
According to Khamula, these funds were used to support coordination under Covid-19 preparedness and response operations.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases are increasing at an alarming rate, with the country’s noticeable incoherent response fuelling anxiety that the worst is yet to come.
From failure to pay frontline healthcare workers allowances to the short supply of PPE and test kits, the challenges are glaring.
Even the Presidential Taskforce on Covid-19 established by Mutharika is muddled with the change of portfolio of some members following the new ushering in of new government.
According to a highly-placed source, the task force last met as a team before the June 23 presidential election.
Malango in an interview justified the challenges, saying no country in the world has been prepared enough for Covid-19.
Last Thursday, the ministry announced that the country was running low on test kit stock levels while in some places they were already depleted.
As of Saturday, the country had registered 192 new cases, cumulatively bringing the number of Covid-19 cases to 2 261 including 33 deaths. The country has 1 711 active cases while 517 cases have been recovered.
But infectious disease expert Dr Titus Divala was hopeful the country has capacity to deal with the disease despite the challenges.
He said: “We have been doing okay and we have hard-working people spending sleepless nights looking for solutions to these very problems.”
However, he blamed the current challenges on “either short-term planning, under-planning or delayed replenishment” all which should not happen for an epidemic whose scale and evolution was known long ago.
A three-month National Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Plan, which expired at the end of June, is currently being reviewed to bring in a strong community component.