ATLANTA, US--Malawi's Civil Society has joined the chorus calling for the resignation of Finance Minister Ken Lipenga and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) commissioner Lloyd Muhura "for lying" to the nation that the zero deficit budget (ZDB) was working.
In February this year, Lipenga told parliament that the MRA had met its projected target of $60 million yet it had taken loans from local banks. The erstwhile administration of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika introduced the ZDB - it uses local resources - after donors had stopped supporting the impoverished country over concerns about mismanagement of the economy and fears that the government was curtailing rights.
In a statement released Friday, the Human Rights Consultative Committee, Governance Platform, Civic and Political Space Platform and Human Rights Defenders Forum said:
"Hon Ken Lipenga and Commissioner Muhara did not only betray the nation but also as rightly put by other commenters broke the law through illegal borrowing of funds from commercial banks to fill in the void created by the Zero Deficit Budget. Against this background, it is only reasonable that the Minister and the Commissioner General should voluntarily resign or be relieved of their positions.
"The excuses given by Honourable Lipenga that he acted out of ignorance and that he was not part of this shameful act do not add up and therefore must be challenged outright. By virtue of being the Minister of Finance he is not only supposed to know the sources of government revenue but also how to spend the same. In simple terms, he is supposed to understand how the treasury books have been balanced before he takes up the responsibility to present the same to the nation through Parliament," the groups said.
They went on: "When this issue was brought up in parliament, Hon Ken Lipenga [said]the Malawi Revenue Authority had done a commendable job in collecting enough revenue to propel the Zero Deficit Budget...We believe that Hon. Ken Lipenga lied just to cover the face of the Democratic Progressive Party ill-timed ZDB for which it would be difficult for Malawians to respect and indeed entrust their financial purse in his hands.
"We contend that it is asking too much from Malawians to put up with these two gentlemen who did not only peddle lies, but also illegally borrowed funds on behalf of Malawians," the groups said. "It is expected that the positions that Dr Ken Lipenga and Mr Lloyd Muhara, and other public positions demand the bearers to carry out themselves with the highest level of integrity and public trust. As such, it is advisable that the two gentlemen need not be retained in public positions as their conduct put the image of government into disrepute."
"As civil society [we] call for...immediate resignation of Finance Minister, Dr Ken Lipenga and Malawi Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Mr. Lloyd Muhara. In the event of failure to voluntarily resign, we impress upon Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Banda to exercise her prerogative to relieve them of their respective duties."
They also call for an "expeditious probe into the matter to establish facts about this illegal transaction," which should also "entail the involvement of the bank officials in as far as this loan was concerned to serve as deterrent in future."
If these demands are not met, the civil society "will use our constitutional rights in organising peaceful protests to demand resignation and firing the two."
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment