Malawians ask Finance Minister Lipenga to resign

Malawians from all walks of life have asked the country’s Minister of Finance Dr Ken Lipenga to resign honourably from his position with immediate effect.

This follows the minister’s own confession on Tuesday that he lied to the nation in the National Assembly earlier this year that the tax collection body-the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) had very good collections into government coffers when in fact those monies were borrowed from different commercial banks in the country.

During the mid-term budget review in Parliament, Lipenga, a PhD holder in linguistics but entrusted with the responsibility of running the country’s finances as minister painted a rosy picture about the country’s resources that Malawi was in fact recovering from its economic woes.

Lipenga: Asked to resign

He told fellow legislators and the nation at large that the Zero-Deficit Budget a brain child of late President Bingu Wa Mutharika was making tangible progress in the country’s economic strides and that the tax collection body, MRA had infact beaten their target in the first half of the financial year.

However, the minister’s assertions were quashed by opposition parliamentarian for Balaka South George Nnesa.

He then alleged in the same house that MRA had not beaten their target but rather they had borrowed from commercial banks in the country to cheat Malawians that things were alright on the ground when in fact that was not the case.

Although Nnesa was ready to bring the evidence in the National Assembly to substantiate his claims, Lipenga dismissed the opposition MP as a liar and that he was only doing that as jealous to the successes of the Zero Deficit Budget.

Further efforts by MP Mnesa to prove his claims were shot down by Lipenga and the once mighty ruling DPP parliamentarians in the 193-member house.

However on Tuesday, Lipenga, now Minister of Finance in the administration of new President Joyce Banda came out in the open to confess that there was dishonest on his part and that of the MRA.

“As a minister I should take the responsibility to admit that the allegations that were made about MRA’s borrowing from commercial banks were true as the institution had pressure to collect certain amounts of money,” he told journalists in the administrative capital, Lilongwe.

Ministers and Members of Parliament in Malawi when addressing the National Assembly, speak under oath and whatever comes out of their mouths is taken to be a true reflection of what exactly is happening in the country or in their respective constituencies.

“As minister when you mislead the President, Parliament or the public – whether deliberately or by your incompetence, or indeed by the incompetence or lies of those working under you in your department – there is only one honourable thing to do — resign as minister,” political commentator Tom Likambale posted in Nyasanet.

“ If you don’t resign, the President has a duty to fire you. The failure of any of the two happening sends a signal that the minister feels s/he is not accountable; or the President does not expect accountability from his/her ministers – either of which is vile and odious to the public interest,” he added.

Activist Ben Chiza Mkandawire has also drawn an online petition for Lipenga to resign.

A professor of Law at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College told Nyasa Times:  “The best that can happen at the moment is that since Lipenga has accepted he lied to the nation, he must quit his job without any delays.”

He said in lying to the nation through the National Assembly, has shown that Lipenga is the most dishonest person a country can have as minister holding a very high profile position like that of Finance.

“As Minister representing the interests of your government and those of the people of Malawi, you can’t lie in the most honourable house like Parliament, that is unacceptable,” he said.

Chancellor College Economist Prof. Ben Kalua added:“We can no longer trust these people and they must go.”

Nnesa has also asked for the immediate resignation of Lipenga and MRA Commissioner General Lloyd Muhara for their role in the whole saga.

“All those who were involved must go. How can we trust them in the way they cheated Malawians,” queried Nnesa.

Several people that have sent text messages and made calls to local radio stations have called on the minister to quit his position.

Edina Chimwaka from Zomba speaking on MIJ FM said the new President Mrs Joyce Banda should not entertain people like Lipenga in her cabinet.

“Crooks are not only found in the streets but also in cabinet like Lipenga,” she fumed.

Malawi’s Leader of Opposition John Tembo said that President Banda must take to task people like Lipenga for bringing down the country’s economy.

“What else have they lied to Malawians on, President Banda must surely take these people to task,” said the MCP leader on Wednesday.

Reacting to the confession, MP  Mnesa said that he was pleased that finally the truth has been known.

“I was treated like a liar and dishonest person but now since the minister has accepted that it was him who lied, I guess the law must now take its course,” he said.

Some social commentators that Nyasa Times has spoken to have suggested that  Lipenga has made the confession now so that he is seen to be honest so that he can continue being in the cabinet of President Banda.

Many people have said that President Banda has maintained Lipenga in his position for continuity following the sacking of Reserve Bank Governor Dr Perks Ligoya and Secretary to the Treasury Joseph Mwanamvekha.

All these were key to the discussions with the international donor community on resumption of aid to Malawi.

Since the discussions are almost coming to an end, Lipenga sees no reason to be maintained in his position, hence the confession to kind of hoodwink the State President so that he remains in the cabinet.

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