Parliament on Monday deferred passing the revised budget allocations for State Residences and the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) due to misunderstandings over certain budget lines.
On the State Residences vote, the bone of contention was an allocation of K110 million (about $150 000) for a banqueting hall that most opposition legislators said was unnecessary given the numerous problems, including food shortages, affecting the country.
The opposition to the vote came even as figures show that the State Residences budget has in fact fallen from K5.4 billion (about $7.4million) to K5 billion (about $6.8million) as Treasury tightens belts in the face of dwindling domestic revenue and contracting direct budgetary support.
On the other hand, the OPC vote met resistance after members of Parliament (MPs) noted an increase from in the revised estimates from K6.4 billion (about $8.7million) to K9.7 billion (about $13.3million).
The debate on votes came after Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe delivered his revised budget wind up speech in which he also announced that total expenditure now stands at K908 billion (about $1.2billion) from the K906 billion (about $) proposed in the Mid-year Budget Review Statement on February 26 this year.
The original 2015/16 national budget, as approved by Parliament last year, was K929.7 billion.
The new revised expenditure estimates followed Treasury’s allocation of an additional K3 billion to public universities and the Malawi Rural (Marep).Electrification Programme
In his critique of the State House and OPC votes, Rumphi West MP Kamlepo Kalua (People’s Party-PP) demanded a clarification on the banqueting hall allocation.
Said Kalua: “You are saying there is no allocation for State Residences banqueting hall construction to be specific, why is there an allocation of K110 million? What is that for? As parliamentarians, we are not going to allow such issues to go without a say and we cannot be compelled to pass such a budget.”
Salima North-West MP Jessie Kabwila (Malawi Congress Party-MCP) also took Gondwe to task, asking the minister to clarify the allocation for construction of a banqueting hall at a time 2.8 million Malawians are in need of food aid.
Lilongwe North East MP Peter Chakhwantha (MCP) likened the allocations to Cashgate.
He said: “Why should such State Residences and OPC be allocated such huge sums of money when there are other ministries which are suffering and need the money better?”
In his response, Gondwe asked for more time to look at the figures on the banqueting hall.
But the minister justified the additional allocation to OPC, saying the increase was mainly due to the fact that there were funds from the European Union (EU).
He said: “We have about K582 million, which is to go to OPC for Democracy Consolidation Programme, Ministry of Agriculture [Irrigation and Water Development] on irrigation, Ministry of Education [Science and Technology] and tertiary education. It is not the whole lot which is to go to OPC.”
But Dedza East MP Juliana Lunguzi (MCP) wondered why Gondwe could not engage the donors so that the money should be reallocated to other agencies that can undertake governance issues.
That was when Gondwe told the House that he would bring today the terms of the contract as regards the funds to OPC.
Out of the five votes discussed, three passed while two were deferred. The three are National Audit Office, Judiciary and Office of Assets Declaration.
Tentative pointers from the Order Paper—an outline of business to be transacted in Parliament—indicate that out of the 50 votes, 26 votes have had their budgets revised upwards, one has been maintained while the rest have been revised downwards.