COMMENT -The statement from State House regarding over-expenditure at the institution raises very interesting issues.
In the first place, we believe the State House press office should have said what it is saying now last week, when reporters dutifully approached that office. We believe there was sufficient goodwill (and no malice) when the reporters approached this office as well to shed some light on allegations about what has happened withÂ resources at Plot Number One.
While there may be a difference of time framesâ€”withÂ Weekend Nation establishing, through its impeccable sources, that the K2.6 billion has been overspent in the last five months and State House arguing it will only overspend with that much in the whole 2012-13 fiscal yearâ€”the point is, there is over-expenditure.
This is what should be the key point of discussion, especially at a time when government is talking about austerity measures and asking citizens to tighten their belts during these hard economic times.
The main issue is extravagance and how justified, as a media house, we can question the same. It is, therefore, dragging issues too far to claim thatÂ Weekend Nation or Nation Publications Limited (NPL) brands have an agenda against the President, Mrs. Joyce Banda. This is far from facts on the ground.
The media all over the world, including Malawi, have the watchdog role of keeping an eye on the public purse in the interest of taxpayers, who toil to ensure that the State has sufficient resources for its programmes.
And here at home, the media has religiously followedÂ events at Treasury and Capital Hill during the reigns of all the multiparty presidents, in the interest of transparency and accountability, as demanded by the prevailing democracy.
Which is why we argue that NPL has no agenda whatsoever against Mrs. Banda. In fact, NPL is expected toÂ sell and protect her, as its Nation Achiever and the countryâ€™s role model citizen who has made it to State House. But, as long as she is custodian of the public purse, she is not immune to public scrutiny regardless of the links she has with sections of the media or society.
This is the core responsibility of the media, especially given that history shows the State has tendencies of covering up when things do not add up.
A very interesting example is how State House is now revealing that the late president Bingu wa Mutharika used State House resources for his private weddingâ€”information that was covered up at the time. How far true this is, that is yet another matter.
Secondly, State House is only talking about possible over-expenditure now, that the media has talked about it. The key question is: Did they make a public alert or seek permission given that the budget is law and there are due mechanisms for authorising over-expenditure?
It is because of this Executive carelessness and impunity that Malawiansâ€”after almost 50 years of independenceâ€”are suffering today.
We need to do the right thing, always; and that process is not personal.
Tags: State House