By Mandy Pondani
Angry Mzuzu City ward councillors yesterday sealed the mayor’s office, Councillor William Mkandawire, in protest against an K18 million expenditure invested in Independence Day celebrations last month.
The irate councillors say, out of the K55 million budget for the celebrations, the Department of Public Events gave Mzuzu City Council (MCC) just K15 million while well-wishers contributed K6 million.
It has, however, transpired that MCC contributed K18 million to the deficit, which was not approved by the full council, a development which has not gone down well with councillors.
They accuse the mayor of failing to safeguard the interests of the council and Mzuzu residents by being part of what they call fraudulent transactions.
“He is our leader but he is failing to ensure accountability and transparency here at MCC. He and the deputy mayor are letting us down. It is better for them to get out of office because they are failing to serve the people,” said Luwinga Ward Councillor, Khumbo Harawa.
He said, in recent years, council authorities have developed the habit of making unilateral decisions behind the back of full council members.
The councillors have since written a five-day ultimatum to MCC secretariat [through chief executive officer – CEO] and the government to return the K18 million to the council’s account, saying it will be used to settle some of the council’s debts.
They have also threatened to seal CEO Macloud Kadammanja’s office should the government and the secretariat fail to return the money to the council’s coffers.
Chiputula Ward Councillor, Fraser Chunga, wondered why a decision was made to the funds when workers at the council, including councillors, have gone for about two months without being paid.
“As I speak, people have not been paid their salaries; we have a lot of debts. There is no way we could afford to fund an event which was in the [Central Government’s] budget. It is a huge anomaly,” Chunga said.
Chunga, who is also MCC Finance Committee deputy Chairperson, said his committee was also bypassed on the matter.
Mkandawire could not pick his phone when we tried to call him but his deputy, Alexander Mwakikunga, in a telephone interview accused the councillors of displaying immaturity.
Director of Finance, Dickson Mwangomba, said the councillors are misleading the public, saying the celebrations’ budget was pegged at slightly over K35 million and that K22 million, from the government and well-wishers, was spent cumulatively.