The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has made a U-turn on sharing the K4 billion rural development funds among all the 193 constituencies.
The country’s oldest party said the arrangement was embroiled in “dishonesty and thievery” as such it would not be party to the sharing of the funds.
MCP second deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said the party does not want to be party to the “mess”.
“The statement delivered by the MCP president [Lazarus Chakwera] last Friday when the House was rising was very clear… Essentially, the leader of Opposition said he does not want to be party to the experimentation with people’s taxes. In plain language, we [MCP] do not want to be party to the mess and that is the stand of the party,” Mkaka said.
Last week, government agreed to distribute the funds to all the 193 constituencies following pressure from the opposition members of Parliament (MPs) and other stakeholders who accused it of flouting procedures in acquiring the resources.
The alleged government’s dishonest course came to light last week after it emerged that government had allocated K40 million each to 86 MPs allegedly as a reward for voting against the Electoral Reforms Bills last December.
But in a turn of events, MCP on Monday said its parliamentarians will not be part of those to benefit from the money.
Just before the House rose, MCP representatives attended a consultative meeting that resolved to distribute the resources equally among all MPs.
Further, MCP chief whip Lobin Lowe asked the Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development to ensure that the resources are allocated to the constituencies through the district councils.
However, Chancellor College political scientist Frank Mpesi wondered how the party could backtrack now after being party to the agreement to allocate the money equally.
He said it was now up to government to implement the arrangement and wondered how MCP could not be party to the process without necessarily revoking the law that was enacted to distribute the money.
Said Mpesi: “How will that come about? It was voted that the money will go through the Local Government Finance Committee and then the district councils. So, what mechanisms will MCP use not to be party of the funding because that money will not go to the party but to the councils then to the constituencies?
“So, if they are saying they will not be party to the arrangement, it actually means the MCP ought to move a motion in Parliament to amend the law that was enacted or repealing the law that now allows the minister of finance to distribute the money through the Local Government Finance Committee.”
But Mkaka said he did not think there was any law enacted that could stop his party from proceeding with its arrangement of not being party to the sharing of the funds.
“This whole thing is embroiled in dishonesty and thievery because if it was a genuine development budget or money, I don’t think there was need for government to hide the source and the selection criteria of the 86 MPs,” he said.
In his closing statement on the Mid-Year Budget Review, Chakwera demanded that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) should investigate the acquisition and distribution of the money.
Last week, ministries of Finance and Local Government struggled to explain how Capital Hill allocated K4 billion to 86 parliamentary constituencies.
The two ministries were also at pains to state where such money came from as pressure mounted on the motive behind the allocations that parliamentarians later agreed should be spread to all 193 constituencies instead of just 86.
In an interview, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe insisted the money was from taxes, grants and borrowing and was saved from the re-adjustments of the 2017/18 budget that saw cuts to the development budget.