Lipenga at it again: Bingu was too hasty on ‘Nsanje Slab’

Beleaguered Finance Minister Ken Lipenga has brought to light yet another costly mistake that his departed elevator, the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, made.

As the public is still reeling to recover from his revelation that the Malawi Revenue Authority (MR) borrowed K15b to support the infamous zero deficit budget after donors withdrew aid to Lilongwe; on Wednesday, during a pre-budget consultation meeting in Lilongwe, Lipenga told stakeholders that the Mutharika government rushed on the Nsanje world inland port which has stalled.

“As government we need to acknowledge that we may have indeed rushed with the project given the pressure that we have as a land locked country. But I think it’s not too late to look back and perhaps correct where we went wrong,” said  Lipenga.

Lipenga: Another confession

The project has seen relations between Malawi and Mozambique sour with Mozambique accusing Lilongwe of imposing the project on her.

Late president Bingu wa Mutharika championed the project on prospects without due regard to the fact that the Zambezi River flows in Mozambique and hence there were appropriate protocols that ought to have been respected.

resident Joyce Banda has since confirmed earlier reports that her government will shelve the Nsanje waterway, disdainfully referred to as the ‘Nsanje Slab’, and prioritize the Sena railway corridor.

The Sena corridor is a railway line that would connect Beira in Mozambique and Nsanje in Malawi in a bid to improve transportation.

“There is no harm in focusing on the Sena corridor as we wait for the Shire Zambezi waterway project,” said President Banda at a news conference in Lilongwe on Wednesday following her recent visit to Mozambique.

As the public waits with baited breath for Lipenga’s fate, it appears the journalist turned Finance Minister is bent on absolving himself of his sins, in the hope of salvaging his tainted credibility.

Meanwhile, it has been revealed that the Malawi government through the Ministry of Finance indeed authorized the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to borrow K7b only but MRA went ahead to get double the authorized amount from at least six commercial banks.

The borrowing was authorized by Director of Budgeting in the ministry of Finance Dr. Dalitso Kabambe on December 30, 2011 the same day MRA started borrowing.

The instructions are evidenced by a letter to MRA reference number CRD6331, dated December 30, 2011, in which the Director of budgeting in the ministry of finance Dr. Dalitso Kabambe authorized MRA Commissioner General Mr. Lloyd Muhara to borrow.

In the first paragraph of the letter, Dr. Kabambe refers to discussions MRA held with officials of the ministry of Finance regarding the need for authority to borrow from commercial banks to cover-up for MK8 b shortfall on expected revenue.

“I refer to the discussions the Malawi Revenue Authority held with officials of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning regarding the above captioned subject matter,” reads the letter in part.

Kabambe has not been committal on the matter but his letter to MRA adds:“I wish to advise that after thorough consideration and consultation on the matter, an approval has been granted by government allowing Malawi Revenue Authority to borrow funds from the Commercial Banks amounting to K7.0 billion for purposes of the agreements at the said meeting.”

However, the letter does not state the details of the meeting; neither does it mention officials present.

“This letter therefore should serve as consent from Government for the Malawi Revenue Authority to proceed on this matter,” concludes the letter.

MRA Board Chairman  Charles Mataya, who has since resigned, has said clearly that laws were flouted.

“Even the Public Finance Act stipulates how these should be done but even if we were in the board, we were not told of this matter,” he says.

The MRA apparently went into the borrowing frenzy on December 29, 2011, continued on December 30, 2011 and finally sated its craving for borrowing on January 5, 2012.

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