Finance Minister Goodall has said President Peter Mutharika has put on hold plans to construct a K110 million banqueting hall at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe because of the volatile economic situation prevailing in the country.
Gondwe said this in parliament Thursday as members of parliament were about to start debating on a K5.1 billion State Residences vote which was earlier deferred after the backbenchers sought clarifications on some issues.
Government had earlier increased the budget for the state home of the president by K3 billion from the initial K55.1 billion but on Thursday the government dramatically reduced it by K300 million to K5.1 million, thanks to the vocal stand of opposition parliamentarians.
“I have consulted. It is not the intention of government or State House to put up a banqueting hall this time around. We are in a very bad situation so we are shelving the idea,” said the eloquent veteran economist Gondwe.
He said State House needed some money though for preparatory work of the banqueting hall such as designs as construction will start as soon as the next year budget is approved.
He also said the State House does not intend to construct a banqueting hall but a multipurpose hall for state functions to replace a marquee which was destroyed by heavy rains and winds last year.
The parliamentarians, mainly from the opposition, pleaded with Gondwe to up the budget for the office of Ombudsman whose budget has been raised from K270m to K281m.
Some MPs noted that the office is in critical financial crisis, saying the landlord is on the verge of chasing away the ombudsman due to unpaid rentals amounting to K25m.
The finance minister assured the House that ministry of Lands will pay for the rents and the K281m is for salaries and office operations for the next four months.
However tempers flared when the members of parliament realised that the government had cut the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) budget by K100 million from K2.4 billion to K2.3 billion.
Salima north west MP Jessie Kabwila described the reduction as worrisome.
“When some of us are called by authorities to answer treason charges, we are worried because we do not know whether we will come back or we will not come back as did Njauju and Chasowa,” said Kabwila referring to the brutal murder of ACB director of corporate affairs Issa Njauju and Polytechnic student Robert Chasowa.
However Gondwe described Kabwila’s statement as mere political tantrums saying the budget is aimed at putting the economy back on track. ”
We have a duty as leaders to put our economy back on track. We have to reduce the budget to reduce expenditure that fuels borrowing which causes inflation,” said Gondwe who has survived attempts by some quarters of society to have him axed as finance minister.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :