Jumbe says Lipenga credibility damaged as Malawi purse keeper

Former Malawi finance minister Friday Jumbe has said Ken Lipenga credibility as the country’s purse keeper has been badly damaged  following revelations that  tax collecting body borrowed money to present a picture that the late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s experimental Zero-Deficit Budget (ZDB) was working.

Legislature George Nnesa revealed in National Assembly  that the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) borrowed money to dupe Parliament and the nation that ZDB was on track.

Lipenga  – English literature expert and journalist -contested that in Parliament and challenged that the figures were accurate.

Now serving in the same portfolio in the Joyce Banda administration Lipenga has confessed that  MRA indeed borrowed 15 billion Malawi kwacha from commercial banks to spruce up tax collection figures.

He however defended himself that the borrowing was done behind his back and that he “didn’t know what was going on.”

Jumbe: How are we going to trust Lipenga next time he is presenting budget statement

But an economist Jumbe  who served as Finance Minister, said Lipenga’s defence is frivolous which indicates he was “not performing as minister of finance.”

“I know myself that MRA on their own cannot borrow from any other financial institution without the support and directive from the treasury,” he said in an interview on Capital FM.

Jumbe said commercial banks would want security from  Ministry of Finance.

“Now going to the treasury, you cannot be a minister of finance sitting there and not be aware of a financial institution getting guarantee in the Ministry of Finance. The Secretary to Treasury  has limits. There is no way he would  pretend to be secretary to treasury and do things without consulting you,” he explained.

On Lipenga’s ‘ignorance’ defence of the illegal  loans, Jumbe said: “If he doesn’t know, that means he was not in control of the ministry, therefore he was completely irrelevant. But I would not want to think that such calibre, he is an experienced minister who would not be irrelevant as such. I would have thought he had trust of the President and system.”

Jumbe also noted that “the donors have expressed concern” and that they have “ demanded that the matter be thoroughly investigated.”

He said: “In terms of perception and where we are, I could say these public jobs are done on the basis of trust.”

Jumbe said the trust on Lipenga has been badly “damaged.”

“If the donors are going to give us money it’s on the basis of trust,” said Jumbe.

He backed calls for Lipenga to resign, saying as a nation “we should able to fly on a clear weather.”

Jumbe said Finance Ministry needs a person of expertise to understand and be in control of the country’s purse.

“I am aware that Honourable Ken Lipenga is very capable minister and equally educated,” he noted.

“Maybe he should be deployed elsewhere – we can’t afford to do experiments.”

Jumbe stressed  that Lipenga is not fit to be Finance Minister: “Yes as far as ministry of finance is concerned, he is not the right person.”

Meanwhile, Nnesa has also said that though he had great respect for Lipenga, the minister had to pay the ultimate price.

Nnesa has taken the matter to court.

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