Mutharika’s funeral budget running a K92m deficit

The cost of the state funeral for former president Bingu wa Mutharika has already exceeded the K150 million budget, chairman of the funeral’s main organising committee Henry Mussa has  disclosed. As of Saturday, the budget was running on a deficit of K92 million and still counting.

Mussa, who is also the Minister of Local Government, defended the jump in the expenditure arguing there were other important expenditure lines that were not included in the initial budget.

He said the additional funds have been spent on decorations and maintaining an access road to Ndata Farm where the fallen president will be buried.

“You can see nobody at first thought we would need money for that road which will help to curb congestion at Ndata. Right now, we have also budgeted K20 million for decorations,” he said.

Mussa also hinted the funeral budget deficit could grow even further.

“You never know what comes, so it is difficult to say whether it will remain at K242 million or not,” he said.

Other expenses have gone to pay for the cost of flying the body to Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre, 50,000 meters of funeral cloth to be distributed free to Malawians at a cost of K21 million, fuel expenses, allowances to army, police and government workers most of whom have travelled from Lilongwe, accommodation and ground transportation for foreign dignitaries, food for mourners, cost of bringing in Malawi’s ambassadors stationed abroad and security for coming presidents.

Nyasa Times in a previous report has revealed that the funeral budget is already being abused notably by officials at the state broadcaster the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).

Mussa said six African presidents are expected to attend Mutharika’s funeral tomorrow. They are Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Mozambique’s Armando Guebuza, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, Benin’s Thomas Yayi Boni and Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba.

Mugabe has since arrived in the country. South Africa will be represented by its vice president Kgalema Motlanthe while Angola will send its speaker of parliament.

“Officials of big organizations like Commonwealth and Comesa [Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa] have also confirmed they are coming,” he said.

There have been concerns that Chileka Airport is too small to accommodate several airplanes but Mussa said they would try to contain the situation.

“If the presidents and other delegates arrive in big planes like the Boeing, then it will be tough. What we will do in such scenario is that the planes will just drop the presidents and park up at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe,” he said.

At his death, late President Mutharika’s DPP government was ill-advisedly pursuing a “zero deficit budget” – a concept that has proven elusive even with respect to his own funeral budget. The funeral budget currently running a 62% unfavourable variance is being managed by cabinet ministers appointed by the late president.

Late Mutharika will be buried at his Ndata farm in his home district of Thyolo, southern Malawi where he built multi-million kwacha house and a mausoleum for his late wife, Ethel.

Mutharika himself will be buried in the same mausoleum next to his wife’s resting place.

Mutharika died on April 5 at Kamuzu Central Hospital where he was rushed to after a cardiac arrest at State House.

But the government had to fly his dead body to South Africa to buy time to attempt to rape the constitution prevent the then estranged Vice President Joyce Banda from taking over.

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