"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Opposition blocks budget discussion

Opposition MPs yesterday blocked progress of
the Committee of Supply which scrutinises budget allocations by
faulting Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe for failing to bring into the
House revised expenditures for the last financial year.

Gondwe tried in vain to convince the uncompromising MPs that he
would bring the supplementary appropriation later and showed signs of
frustration alongside Justice Minister Henry Phoya—who described this
year’s budget as "going through acrimony and tribulations".

On Tuesday, Parliament voted to go into the Committee of Supply. But
trouble started earlier yesterday when MCP’s stand-in finance
spokesperson Situsi Nkhoma wanted Gondwe to table the supplementary
bill to regularise any over-expenditure that might have been incurred.

"Apart from that, despite the mediation efforts by the clergy, only
the opposition has signed the memorandum of understanding. We want
government to assure us that it will not fool us as it did last year
when they prorogued Parliament. What is their position on Section 65?"
Situsi Nkhoma queried amid loud cheers from the opposition backbenchers.

Leader of UDF in the House George nga Mtafu said: "Where is Section
65 now and what will happen to our security when the Army marches in on
Friday as someone ordered?"

First Deputy Speaker Esther Mcheka-Nkhoma asked leader of the House
Henry Chimunthu Banda to comment on the matter, but he said he could
not find a Standing Order allowing him to debate the issues under the
Committee of Supply.

"Apart from that, the statements were made six days ago, why did
they have to wait until now? Why should security become an issue only
now?" Hit back Chimunthu Banda.

But Mtafu was at his feet: "His Excellency the State President in
Chiradzulu warned that we should pass, not our budget, not a Malawi
budget but his budget by Friday. Technically, even a very, very
unintelligent person will understand that there is no way the budget
can be passed by Friday".

MCP chief whip Betsoni Majoni said the opposition have waited for
days to give chance to government to apologise to which Industry and
Trade Minister Henry Mussa challenged that the President never spoke of
asking the military to march into Parliament.

Mcheka-Nkhoma curtailed debate and moved into Committee of Supply
where Lilongwe Mapuyu South Joseph Njobvuyalema questioned why the
State Residences vote should be discussed when it has not been audited
since 2003.

Gondwe said the State Residences were audited and they were just waiting for the Auditor-General’s signature.

Nkhotakota Central MP Clement Stambuli said the budget documents needed to be changed to reflect that they were only estimates.

Gondwe said since 1964, the supplementary appropriation bill is
presented soon before the actual appropriation bill of that year.

"It also allows us to easily justify any increase in the next year’s
allocations as we explain the over-expenditure in the past year. This
is the convention and practice for years," he said.

But Blantyre South West MP Gerald Mponda said there was no legal basis for Gondwe’s proposal.

Gondwe argued that Section 177 of the Constitution allows him to
bring the supplementary appropriations bill any time in the year but
former Justice Minister Bazuka Mhango said the section gives a specific
timeframe—that it should be before the start of the year.

Mcheka-Nkhoma asked for direction only to be challenged by
government whip Davies Katsonga who asked her to make her decision
based on the precedence set in the House.

As Chimunthu Banda pleaded for peace to be heard, opposition benches
kept interrupting him, forcing the leader of the House to snap: "It has
been very unusual and the issues that were being raised were irrelevant
to the Committee of Supply. We know what is happening, we are not

After a one-and-a-half hours debate, the House adjourned two hours early with nothing discussed except the technicalities.

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