The Office of the Vice-President has pleaded for an additional K1.4 billion to function properly in the 2017/18 financial year set to roll out on July 1.
However, during a meeting with the Public Appointments/ Government Assurances cluster of Parliament on Friday, officials from the Office of the Vice-President asked for a consideration of K575 million additional funds due to budget ceilings.
The officials have since asked members of the Public Appointments/ Government Assurances cluster to lobby fellow legislators for the additional amount based on their ceiling.
Director of administration in the Office of the Vice-President, Erick Yesaya, said the office needs more money to operate.
He said: “According to the provided ceiling to our office, we have fallen short of K575 million for us to carry our duties, even though this is not enough.”
In an interview after the meeting, some officials from the Office of the Vice-President told The Nation that the amount they presented to the committee was small as they still need more.
“We need at least somewhere around K1.4 billion in the office, but as you know we were given a ceiling, that is why we have told the committee the amount that is in tandem with the ceiling,” said one official who sought anonymity.
Vote 240 for the Office of the Vice-President has been allocated K8.2 billion which some critics have described as small looking at the nature of the office.
Some analysts have even concluded that the Vice-President was being sidelined politically and the low funding could be some form of punishment.
But Yesaya dismissed the assertions, saying the office’s funding is normal and people should not attach politics to it.
During the meeting, committee members asked the officials to verify media reports that the office was underfunded compared to other departments.
Mwanza Central member of Parliament (MP) Davis Katsonga asked: “Is it really true that the office has been underfunded? Can you verify the reports in the media that the office is underfunded this financial year?”
The vote covers the office of the Vice-President, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (Dodma) and National Public Events which fall under Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
Comparatively, there is an increase of 75 percent to the vote compared to the last financial year when the vote was only allocated K4.7 billion.
The Office of the Vice-President faces a dwindling pool of resources towards the 2019 Tripartite Elections as Treasury projections indicate the office faces an 80 percent cut despite enjoying increased allocation in this year’s budget.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe told our sister newspaper, Nation on Sunday, on May 21 that the projected cut in funding from K8.2 billion to K1.7 billion was part of austerity measures government is implementing.
Ironically, during the same period, Treasury has projected increased allocations to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and State Residences.
The developments come amid growing speculation regarding Chilima’s political future as his position in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)/United Democratic Front (UDF) working relationship remains unclear ahead of the 2019 elections.
Chilima, plucked from the corporate world where he was Airtel Malawi managing director to be President Peter Mutharika’s running mate and eventually the country’s Vice-President in 2014, holds no official party position in DPP.
Previous fallouts between past presidents and their deputies—most notably Bingu wa Mutharika (now deceased) and Cassim Chilumpha (2004 to 2009) and Bingu and Joyce Banda (2009 to 2012)—resulted in drastic cuts in funding to the offices of the Vice-President.
However, the current administration insists that the relationship between Mutharika and Chilima is cordial and stronger. n