Govt to gazette Independence Celebrations’ expenditure report on Wednesday—Chimwendo Banda

The Minister of Homeland Security Richard Chimwendo Banda has disclosed that the government will, on Wednesday this week, gazette the cost taxpayers incurred on this year’s July 6 Independence Celebrations.

This follows public outcry after FDH Bank statement showed the Secretary to the President drawing K238 million which was part allocation of the celebration funds.

Minister Chimwendo Banda

Similarly, Homeland Security failed to disclose or offer proof that the unused K156m savings that was withdrawn by the Mr ZangaZanga Chikhosi has been returned to Account Number One.

“We will gazette the expenditure report on Wednesday next week. I would like to assure you that this government remains committed to ensuring transparency and accountability on anything it undertakes because we do appreciate that we are here because Malawians delegated us to serve them,” he said.

ZangaZanga Chikhosi’s funds withdrawal

But Chimwendo Banda, who chaired the committee that oversaw the preparations for the event, denied assertions that the government has made such a decision following the pressure from civil rights activists such as the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI), which have been requesting for the report.

The minister said the gazetting of the expenditure report is in keeping with the Tonse Alliance government’s spirit of promoting transparency and accountability.

“We are not under pressure from anyone; we are simply doing what we are supposed to do as Tonse government. Why should we be under pressure to give an account of how much we spent on a national event? Let me assure Malawians that no one has stolen their money through the event as other people would like to portray it,” he said.

Chimwendo Banda also exonerated Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC), Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi, from speculations that he pocketed K238 million from the budget.

Over the past few days, bank transactions have been circulating on the social media, indicating deposits into the SPC’s official bank account. This raised eyebrows among inquisitive citizens, who feared that the Tonse Alliance government might have used Chikhosi to siphon their money out of the Account Number One.

The government had initially budgeted K243 million for the 2021 Independence Celebrations, which took place on July 6.

But Malawians raised concerns that the amount was too much considering that the country is currently experiencing one of the worst economic turbulence, largely due to the impact of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic.

In trying to clarify the matter, Chimwendo Banda held a press briefing in Lilongwe on Saturday morning to clarify why it spent beyond the K50 million it had told the nation.

During the press briefing, the minister maintained that the K87 million the government incurred on the preparations for the 2021 Independence Celebrations represents what taxpayers shouldered on pre and post event celebrations.

“The main aim of the briefing was to make clarity on what has been highlighted on the social media and print media regarding the 2021 Independence Celebrations; the finances that were used and the headlines that made purporting to say the money was deposited into the account of the Secretary to President and Cabinet (Chief Secretary to the Government). In the first place, the preparations for the celebration do start two to three months before the actual celebration,” said Chimwendo Banda.

“And this year’s celebration, the whole proposed budget was K243 million. And this was approved. But in the process and due to the rising of coronavirus cases in the country, His Excellency gave a guidance that we should scale down the activities to avoid the spread of Covid-19. And this was done three days before the main event. By the time we were scaling down, we had made preparations already in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

“Now, by the time we were scaling down our activities, other activities were already done, including purchases of celebration clothes, banners, t-shirt and golf shirts. And other activities such as planning meetings had already taken place. But we still scaled down and we used K87 million in total,” he said.

Chimwendo said the government has saved K156 million from the initial planned budget and that the saving will be deposited in the Government’s Account Number One.

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