Malawi State House attacks newspaper over budget story: ‘Nation has an agenda to discredit JB’

Malawi State House has attacked Nation Publications Limited, saying it is hell bent to discredit President Joyce Banda, following a story which was published din one of its titles Weekend Nation on Saturday that that State House has blown its budget for the 2012/2013.

The paper reported that by mid-November 2012, State House had spent K2.6 billion (about $7.9 million)—K800 million (about $2.4 million) more than its K1.8 billion annual allocation for the financial year ending June 2013.

Reaction

But in reaction, Presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane said in a statement made available to Nyasa Times that the report by the newspaper is “false and based on hearsay.”

Said Nhlane: “The fact of the matter is that actual expenditure for State House during the 2011/2012 budget was K2.5 billion. The new administration also found debts amounting to K600 million.”

President Banda: Paying off debts left by Mutharika’s regime at State House

He explained that Treasury allocated K1.8 billion during the 2012/13 fiscal year, “thus lower by K700 million than the actual budget provided last year.”

The Presidential press secretary said “out of the K1.8 billion allocated for this financial year, State House paid some of the outstanding debts amounting to K400 million.”

He said the projected expenditure for the 2012/13 fiscal year will be K2.6 billion or slightly more than last year’s due to the following normal budget assumptions:

  • 1. Inflation
  • 2. Motor vehicle running costs
  • 3. Devaluation
  • 4. Fuels costs
  • 5. Arrears of debts
  • 6. Transitional expenditures

“It is therefore false to say that State House has spent K2.6 billion by December 2012,” said Nhlane.

“State House further wishes to inform the nation that expenditure details by individual government ministries and departments will be provided by the Honourable Minister of Finance during the Mid Year Budget Review in Parliament, in line with the Public Finance Management Act.”

Inherited debts

According to Nhlane, some of the K600 million debts from the previous regime dates back to 2009 and some are related to the former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s wedding with Callista Mutharika on wedding cards, air travel and lodging.

“Government is under obligation to pay its creditors, the majority of whom come from the private sector which is the engine for economic growth. Most government creditors get loans from commercial banks in order to supply goods and services to government,” he said.

Adding: “Not paying them is, therefore, killing the very sector that is supposed to play a leading role in turning around the economy.”

Attack on paper

Nhlane a former editor of Nation Publications Limited advised the media to desist from publishing “wanton falsehoods based on rumours if it is to continue to be a reliable source of information.”

He claimed The Weekend Nation report is “pure sensationalism that borders on malice and a mockery of the journalism profession.”

The statement said “State House is of the view that Nation Publications Limited has an agenda against it and in particular Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Banda to discredit her.”

But the newspaper said in its editorial that the “behaviour of expecting the poor and powerless to tighten their belts while the ruling elite lives luxuriously smacks of hypocrisy, double standards and a lack of integrity on the part of those entrusted to manage the country’s affairs.”

This is not the first time Nhlane has attacked the publication, which is highly regarded in Malawi as credible news outlet.

He recently discredited the newspaper survey which showed that if elections were held today President Joyce Banda would be defeated by opposition DPP leader Peter Mutharika, apparently insinuating that the paper is practising  gutter journalism.

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