MEJN probes Malawi gov’t on Umoyo Housing, TTC projects

Malawi government has been taken to task by Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) following revelations that poor fiscal policies on public resources and financial expenditure have resulted in billions of Kwachas of tax-payers going in drain without sanctioning the culprits.

Mejn in its statement made available to Nyasa Times, has lamented on how grants and loans to support financing of development projects go unaccounted for without attempts to recover money or sanction culprits despite the Auditor General’s reports year in year out on the same villain programmes and departments.

Among the most highlighted concerns include the Umoyo housing Project where about 140 houses are being built at an exorbitant cost of K10 million per house; surprisingly the said houses have been appeared in the national budgets for nearly five years.

“The 2012/13 budget alone had K1.29billion for the project, which translates into an average unit cost of K9.2 million. In the 2013/14 budget, K1.5 billion has been allocated and Government says they will start another 150 houses. Even if they finish within a year’s budget, that means the cost will be at an average of K10 million per house.

Kubalasa: Funds abuse
Kubalasa: Funds abuse

“Similar houses are also being reportedly built for teachers through LDF at a much lower cost, begging the question -.What could be causing such a huge disparity for the Umoyo Project unit cost?” questioned Mejn Executive Director Dalitso Kubalasa in the news statement.

Kubalasa also cited the expenditure of about $29, 000, 000.00 on three Teachers Training Collages (TTC), which he argued have never seen the light of the day despite a 2009 UN Malawi annual report, shows that the said the money was already borrowed for the projects.

He said: “In 2013/14 budget it is indicated however, that the Government intends to borrow unspecified money for TTC’s in Rumphi, Mchinji and Chikhwawa (Draft: 2013/14 Financial). Yet there is another TTC project in Phalombe, near the abandoned site for the district hospital.

“It looks there are weak monitoring mechanisms that can help government draw lessons before embarking on familiar projects. This therefore still begs the question – Is this going to be carried through to see the light of the day at the end of the fiscal year?.

Mejn has also taken to task government for failing to listen to the Auditor General’s report for the year-ended 30th June, 2011 which indicates many weaknesses and challenges.

The Auditor General’s report indicated that 397 metric tons of fertilizer valued at MK35, 038, 400.00 disappeared on the way from SFFRFM to various ADMARC markets in Ntcheu and Lilongwe districts between October and November, 2007. To date there is no evidence to show that appropriate action has been taken on the matter.

It also says unsubstantiated withdrawal of farm inputs valued at MK205, 134, 870.00 were made from ADMARC Markets by SFFRFM Nkhata Bay, Chitipa, Mzimba, Rumphi and Karonga districts. The inputs were moved to unspecified destinations without any document to authenticate the move that it is difficult to ascertain whether the farm inputs were legitimately withdrawn or were subsequently accounted for.

The report further states that payment vouchers amounting to MK43, 888, 250.90 were not produced for audit review in ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation a lone. Consequently the propriety of the expenditure could not be established or determined.

“The issue of Zomba-Jali-Phalombe-Chitakale road where billions have been spent. Zomba-Jali-Phalombe road has been stalling and is still not finished, despite using over $47 million. According to draft 2013/14 financial statement –Off-Budget Support Section, government has made another foreign borrowing to the tune of MK 3. 393billion. This means more funds but no hope for completion of such a long-awaited road with the potential to positively assist generations of the grassroots’ around the roads’ catchment area”.

Mejn lamented that such reported gross wastage and inefficiency in the public sector has affected some critical projects to the detriment of the livelihoods in the grassroots.

The institution also complained on the lack of enough support towards institutions like the National Auditor Office, the Anticorruption Bureau and the Accountant Genera, who are being deprived of support (financial and technical) to fully strengthen capacity to operate independently, professionally and efficiently.

“We feel that this could be a deliberate ploy to sustain mediocrity and inefficiency so that a few greedy officers continue defrauding the public purse of tax-payers’ money, grants and loans that are meant to improve the welfare of the poorest and hardworking citizens of this nation. We therefore ask for much more Government commitment to walk the talk and address this growing problem ‘cancer’ with utmost urgency,” added Kubalasa in the statement.

Spokesperson of the Office of President and Cabinet, Arthur Chipenda said there could be some lapses and weakness in the Malawi Public Service that “need to be addressed for efficient service delivery.”

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