Despite promises of adherence to austerity measures implemented as part of the Economic Recovery Programme, the administration of President Joyce Banda during 2013/14 financial year spent an estimated K30 billion on presidential and senior government officials’ travel allowances.
“Details emanating from the ministries and government departments on the 20134/14 expenditures have shown that government spent the money on travel allowances for the president and government officials including controlling officers,” said Finance and Economic Planning Minister Goodall Gondwe in an interview on Monday.
He said in an effort to sustain the economic reforms, the figure in the 2014/15 budget will be reduced to less than K10 billion to ensure effectiveness of the various measures that are under implementation.
The revelations of the expenditure on domestic and foreign travel by previous regime have not surprised economic commentators.
Economic commentator Alex Nkosi said the expenditure was not a surprise and that much of it might have been spent extravagantly on the presidential travel during the May 20 tripartite elections campaign period.
“We all know how the president travelled during the last two years of her administration. This does not come as a surprise to me at all. It is very unfortunate to have such an expenditure on travel alone. I also see an element of cashgate in the figure,” said Nkosi calling for a probe on the matter.
He called on government to ensure that the 2014/15 national budget should benefit the vulnerable with a bias towards the social sectors.
“Government needs priorities that would ensure that there is adequate funding to ministries and departments,” said Nkosi.
On his part, economic analyst Collen Kalua noted that the former president and government controlling officers lacked fiscal discipline in the way they managed taxpayer’s money during the period in question.
“The president traveled too much during her term of office and even the ministers and other government controlling officers embarked on unnecessary familiarisation tours to institutions they already know.
“Government should thrive to cut down such unnecessary expenses and make sure that it observes fiscal discipline in the way it handles finances,” said Kalua.
According to Kalua, such expenditure contributed to loss of donor confidence forcing government to print additional money and to over borrow domestically to cushion situation. Peoples party officials kept on throwing the matter to each other when asked on the matter.