The moment that the whole nation becomes duped is here. That moment when Parliament passes a budget with dubious allocations to State Residences and a helpless opposition led Budget and Finance Committee looks on.
It is really disappointing that what comes out of the 10-day recess in which Members of Parliament (MPs) supposedly scrutinise the budget is more of the begging for boreholes, roads and health centres instead of proposals to move allocations around for the benefit of many.
In the end, the only fight that MPs fight for and win is increases to their Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and we know what that is used for: making themselves more popular to come back to the House.
Goodall Gondwe’s budget reads like a brilliant document but it is in fact flawed. Whatever this government is promising to do in 2017/18 financial year is all leading to one goal in mind: the 2019 Tripartite Elections.
This budget shows a government in panic mode, a government which has looked at its manifesto and the ticks of what has not been done so far outnumber what has been delivered to the millions of voters who trusted the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to lead them better than the Peoples Party (PP).
If only MPs would realise that the reason State Residences has planned that President Peter Mutharika undertake 45 ‘development’ trips, 15 more than last year is not because he wants to visit his people, but to campaign.
In the next 12 months, Mutharika like his predecessor did from the second she was sworn in will be to gallivant all over the country attending to useless functions in the name of elevating chiefs, inaugurating one building and project or other.
Parliament will have approved such allocations which in hindsight give the ruling administration an unfair edge over the other election participants.
The dubious allocations to State Residences have not ended at unrealistic number of local and foreign trips. In the past years, State Residences proposed allocations for farm input subsidy similar to Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) for its staff. Yes, they wanted Fisp, and Parliament turned a blind eye and approved such a ridiculous allocation.
State Residences has resisted attempts for a headcount for the past two years claiming if the Auditor General’s people go there, everyone will have accompanied the president on some trip. Is this true,really?
That the Auditor General (AG) bought such a pack of lies is amazing. What is State Residences compared to the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and not so useful National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) where headcounts have been conducted.
There is a lot of rot that goes unchecked at State Residences and the legislators are sleeping on the job.
Can Parliament question the massive projected chop to the budget of the Vice-President in the next financial year? Will this country not have a vice-president in 2018/19 with a household, office and the related activities to manage? What is this administration telling the nation? It is expected that the President and Vice-President work alongside each other, if the budget to the Presidency and State Residences is going up, it follows that the same should happen to that of his vice.
But this being Malawi with a history of an acrimonious relationship between the president and his vice since 1994, anything is possible and no politician or ordinary Malawian will bat an eyelash when the vice-president becomes a mere figurehead ahead of the elections.
Can the Honourable MPs for once take off their rose-tinted glasses in scrutinising this budget and critically look at allocations and the justification behind them? Can the Honourable MPs put aside the representative role that is a sure way to bring them back to Parliament in 2019 and think of the national good?
It is without a doubt that everything that goes wrong, or right on those few occasions, begins with money. Follow the money and maybe there will be a fresh wave of pride for the Members of Parliament.