Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe has dared civil society organisations (CSOs) pushing for his resignation over the controversial K4 billion to legislators, inviting them to a meeting tomorrow.
In a letter dated March 12 2018 with reference number MF/2/19which The Nation has seen, Gondwe, who has signed the letter, has proposed that the meeting should take place at 2pm tomorrow at the Ministry of Finance headquarters in Lilongwe.
The letter is addressed to Mzuzu-based Youth and Society executive director Charles Kajoloweka and copied to Centre for the Development of People (Cedep) led by Gift Trapence and Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) of Timothy Mtambo.
Reads Gondwe’s letter in part: “I have noted with regret facts being misrepresented on the matter now in the public domain. In order to share with you accurate information, I wish to invite you to an interface meeting to take place on Wednesday, 14th March 2018, at 2pm at the Ministry Headquarters.”
The invitation comes days after the three CSO leaders addressed a news conference in Mzuzu where they gave President Peter Mutharika seven days to fire Gondwe and his Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development counterpart Kondwani Nankhumwa for their role in the transaction.
The CSOs threatened to take the matter to court if the President failed to dismiss the two Cabinet ministers and threatened to organise nationwide demonstrations.
In an interview yesterday, Trapence confirmed receiving the invitation; but said the CSOs were yet to decide on whether to attend the meeting.
The K4 billion issue—that initially saw 86 legislators mostly affiliated to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its working partners getting about K40 million each—came to the fore during the Mid-Year Budget Review Meeting on Parliament in February.
But Nankhumwa clarified that both sides of the House decided to distribute the money equally across the board, meaning that each of the 193 legislators would now receive K20.7 million.
However, the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) later made a U-turn, saying it does not want to be party to the money, with its second deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka stating the arrangement was embroiled in “dishonesty and thievery”.
Capital Hill has long argued that the money, described as Quick Grant Project, is meant for rural development, but the CSOs feel Gondwe’s conduct on the matter is not only beneath his resume, but a huge betrayal to citizens’ trust in him as the country’s purse keeper.
In an earlier statement, the CSOs said they were deeply disturbed and riled at the ‘criminal role’ that Gondwe played in the K4 billion scandal.
They wondered why Gondwe, with complicity with Parliamentarians, decided to throw accountability measures “through the window in a typical case of State Capture motivated by greed and political appeasement”.
The CSOs also questioned government’s logic to give members of Parliament (MPs) the money when some of them they are at the centre of abusing Constituency Development Fund (CDF), by literally usurping local government councils’ roles on the development package.
In a statement at the weekend, the Catholic Commission for Justice and peace (CCJP) said the scam was a clear portrayal of total
mismanagement of public funds and evidence of a leadership that is corrupt and lacks integrity.
In an earlier interview, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani said the CSOs needed to vent their anger on MPs who approved the said package.
He reminded the CSOs that the role of the Minister of Finance in the public funds appropriation process is to present and where need be, explain appropriation proposals before Parliament.
Gondwe earlier said the K4 billion funding was an experiment outside the current mechanisms, and was not budgeted for.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, under Vote 120, had an approved K11.4 billion in the approved recurrent budget for which Gondwe sought an increment of K2.2 billion.
However, the K4 billion is not part of the increment.