The Malawian Government is set to purchase 12 new motor vehicles for Cabinet ministers, their deputies, Principal Secretaries (PSs), and directors, at a cost of K1 billion.
The vehicles consist of two Toyota Land Cruiser VXL executive station wagons for Cabinet ministers, two TXL station wagons for deputy ministers, four double cabins for PSs, and four “small” wagons for directors.
The Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDAA) has approved the purchase request from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
However, civil society groups and the opposition criticize the move, especially when the country faces budget cuts to critical social sectors and aid for those affected by Tropical Cyclone Freddy.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition executive director Gift Trapence urges the government to delay the purchase of the vehicles and prioritize the needs of affected Malawians.
Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation executive director Michael Kaiyatsa shares the same sentiment, saying, “Why not invest that money towards Cyclone Freddy recovery efforts? It is hypocritical that the government continually complains that the resource envelope is not enough when it is actually squandering taxpayers’ money on things we can do without.”
Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa also criticizes the decision as ill-timed and wrong, stating that the budget deficit is unsustainable.
In response, OPC chief communications officer Robert Kalindiza assures that the decision to purchase the vehicles is undergoing scrutiny due to the current economic situation.
The government is reviewing the motor vehicle entitlement policy because of the austerity measures ordered by President Lazarus Chakwera. Kalindiza adds that the review process is ongoing, and the public will be informed about the way forward.
“We should not use resources aimlessly,” Kalindiza explains.
The Malawi Government’s motor vehicle fleet has always come under scrutiny, with an earlier assessment by the Economics Association of Malawi finding that the government spent billions of kwacha servicing close to 3,000 vehicles, half of which was spent on fuel and maintenance and the other on driver allowances.