Botolo -The correct figure was the one Gondwe announced

LILONGWE (Muchanakhwaye Khwepeya, Malawi NewsNow ) – The chairpersons for the clusters on Agriculture and Natural Resources Joseph Chidanti Malunga and Budget and Public Accounts chairperson Rhino Chiphiko have suspected foul play on the funds allocated to the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) in the proposed 2018/19 National Budget.

This follows contradictory number of beneficiaries given by two government ministries.

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said government has increased Fisp beneficiaries from 900 000 to one million but officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development told Parliament’s Budget Cluster on Agriculture and Natural Resources that the number of beneficiaries has further increased to 1.5 million despite the 2018/19 Budget Document Number Five page 197 indicating 900 000.

However, Secretary to the Treasury Ben Botolo said the figure Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri presented was not correct.

He said during an appearance before the cluster on Budget and Public Accounts, the correct figure was the one Gondwe announced in the statement.

“The budget which we have indicates one million beneficiaries. We [Treasury] don’t know about the 1.5 million. We are equally surprised where the 1.5 million is coming from,” said Botolo.

But Chiphiko said something crooked is going on.

Said Chiphiko: “This shows that the money is not meant for Fisp. I think there are very few people that will benefit from Fisp. Why should the figures differ?”

The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development has been provided K151 billion in the 2018/19 projected National Budget of which K42 billion has gone to Fisp, an increase from K33 billion in the current financial year.

Fisp was reviewed three years ago and saw the number of beneficiaries reduced from 1.5 million to 900 000. However, in the proposed 2018/19 budget, the number of beneficiaries has been increased with Gondwe admitting the move is meant to woo voters in what the media has described as a campaign budget ahead of the 2019 Tripartite Elections.