Friday, June 8, 2007
HOUSE WON’T DISCUSS FUNERAL COSTS
Expenses incurred on the funeral of the First Lady Madame Ethel Mutharika, who will be buried today at Ndata Farm in Thyolo, will not be debated in Parliament, but government is expected to provide the House with a complete report on expenditures, Malawi News has established.
Funeral Arrangements Committee chair Davis Katsonga, disclosed this week Government was using money allocated in the ‘Unforeseen Expenditure’ vote in the 2006/07 national budget for the funeral of the First Lady. Parliament approved K100 million in the said vote.
Former finance minister Friday Jumbe, who is also UDF’s director of economic affairs, said the K100 million in this vote was just a provisional figure.
He said since the money is in the unforeseeable vote, government would spend more money than allocated in it as long as it is going to account for every tambala.
He said government should also be ready to refund votes that it is going to borrow from if it spends more than what was approved in the Unforeseen Expenditures Vote.
“In the past, government would allocate K1 in this vote because it was unlimited. The money to spend depends on the nature of the calamity. The word ‘over expenditure’ does not come in because one cannot measure the unforeseeable,” said Jumbe.
He said he would not fault government in the way it has handled the funeral of the First Lady saying: “Nobody would do anything any better than the way they [Government] have handled it.”
He said what government would do was to add up the figures on the money used during the funeral and present them in the House, saying Parliament would only adopt the figures without discussing them.
MCP shadow finance minister, Respicious Dzanjalimodzi said the expenditure on the funeral would be decided by Cabinet but said if it spends more than what is in the allocated vote, government would be expected to refund the money.
“They are expected to explain how they have spent the money. If they borrowed from other votes, then they have to refund where they have borrowed,” he said.
But Dzanjalimodzi said while it is understood that government was using the ‘Unforeseen Expenditure’ vote—because nobody expected the death of the First Lady—the question which is supposed to be considered should be ‘to what extent would we go on the expenditure?’
“Every civil servant has got an entitlement on how government would assist in events like this including the President…OPC [Office of the President and Cabinet] would be in a position to know what was the President’s entitlement and they should spend within the entitlement,” he said.
PPM president Aleke Banda, a former minister of finance in the UDF- led government, said it is expected that government will spend within the allocated amount in the Unforeseen Expenditure vote.
Concurring with the other MPs, Banda said if government exceeds the K100 million allocation using charges in other votes ‘‘they have to justify all the expenditure. The most important thing is that they should account for the money.”
Katsonga who is also Presidential and Parliamentary Minister said government would account for every tambala spent on the funeral of the First Lady, saying even President Bingu wa Mutharika, the bereaved, has also emphasized accountability.
“Expenses are something that we want to reduce in anything that we do or spend our money on. Beyond that we also say that the government cannot be accused of being extravagant in the manner that we have spent money to deal with this funeral,” he said.
Katsonga said the President wanted the First Lady to have a proper, respectable burial, but he warned the committee to be careful on the expenditure.
“Everything that we have done is something that would be accounted for. Having said all this, this is our First Lady. She has to go in a dignified fashion; our goal is to achieve that goal,” he said.
Several committees were appointed to oversee funeral arrangements.
The committees included that of Protocol and Accommodation headed by Foreign Affairs Minister Joyce Banda which has been arranging for the accommodation of local and foreign dignitaries.
The Catering Committee was headed by Minister of Irrigation and Water Development Sidik Mia. It was responsible for feeding all delegates local and international while transport was headed by Minister of Transport Henry Mussa who was tasked to ferry all the delegates from all walks of life.
Minister of Home Affairs Ernest Malenga was responsible for security while Minister of Local Government George Chaponda was responsible for the church arrangements.
“I wish it were cheaper. I have never heard a cheap or an inexpensive state funeral,” Katsonga summed it all.
Madame Ethel Mutharika would be buried in a grave that would keep the body intact for the next 200 years, according to Katsonga.