Caution has been sounded as Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe—who is under pressure over the K4 billion allocation to legislators that critics say is irregular—has invited civil society organisations (CSOs) pushing for his resignation to a meeting to explain the matter, with governance activists saying dialogue should not replace the essence of public accountability in the country.
The meeting’s invitation follows mounting pressure and calls from some CSOs for Gondwe and Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa to resign for allocating K4 billion to constituencies without proper explanation of the source of the funding and criteria used to select beneficiary constituencies.
Initially, the K4 billion was meant to benefit constituencies only with each receiving K40 million, but after Malawi News report exposed it and uproar in Parliament, a deal was reached between government and the opposition for all the 193 constituencies to benefit.
A local governance activist Makhumbo Munthali said while the dialogue must be viewed as one of the platforms for the public purse-keeper to clarify his role in the K4 billion saga, “caution must be taken by the invited CSOs” when engaging with government.
Munthali told Nyasa Times: “It is a fact that DPP government initiated dialogue has in the recent past proved to be mere platforms of appeasement and window-dressing to score a political point rather than addressing the real issues at hand.”
In a letter dated March 12 2018, Gondwe has invited leaders of Youth and Society (YAS), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Centre for the Development of the People (CEDEP) to an “interface” meeting on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 at the ministry headquarters at Capitol Hill in Lilongwe.
Munthali said the invited CSOs “must realise in their engagement that while dialogue is a positive step forward, the nature of the issue at hand also requires that a number of avenues still be explored in as far as coming to the bottom of the issue at hand, and that all those who flouted the processes be held accountable on the same.”
The governance activist pointed out that issues of allegations of corruption in relation to rewarding the rejection of 50% plus-one electoral law, the flouting of legally sanctioned government procedures in the way the issues has been handled by the two ministers Gondwe and Nankhumwa, “cannot necessarily be resolved in the dialogue set-up.”
He said: “Dialogue shouldn’t be perceived as a substitute for accountability of public officers on serious issues of misallocation of public resources. Doing so would be creating a bad precedent.”
Munthali then urged the invited CSOs and government to put into considering the factors of accountability and transparency as they deliberate in the public interest.
Commenting on the matter, Malawi’s flagship newspaper, The Daily Times, titled its editorial comment: “Gondwe is insulting Malawians.”
In the comment, the paper said it is an “insult” to see Gondwe “continuing to be adamant by saying that facts are being distorted on the issue.”
Concluded the editorial: “For him [Gondwe] to invite and plan to lecture the CSOs is immoral. He has already dug his heels that he is right. He is not.”
Gondwe’s letter, titled ‘Request for a meeting on the K4 billon saga” is addressed to YAS leader Charles Kajoloweka and copied to CHRR and CEDEP, said the Finance Minister wants to give “accurate information.”
Both Kajoloweka and CEDEP leader Trapence confirmed receipt of the letter.
. Kajoloweka said the CSOs leaders will meet to decide the way forward.
“We are in receipt of the letter. We have taken note of the request. We will meet as CSO leaders to come up with a position whether to attend the meeting or not. The nation will be informed,” he said.
Kajoloweka added that the CSOs will also respond formally to the minister by Tuesday.
Trapence concurred with Kajoloweka about the CSO leaders’ meeting before providing a formal response to the minister regarding the request.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :