Minister Goodall Gondwe
Goodall Gondwe

“When you’re dealing with frauds and liars,” DaShanne Stokes says, “listen more to what they don’t say than what they do.” Consider this: have you ever encountered a good parent who played hide and seek with investments they said were their children?

Of course not.

Modern parents keep their wards informed so that should anything – God forbid – happen, their wards should know what and where their inheritance is. The same applies to governments undertaking genuinely beneficial projects for its citizens. In fact, when politicians have conceived a development project, they look for the highest anthill and employ the most vocal hoodlums they can hire to harangue us with cost and purported benefits of the project.

Politicians, more so the local breed, being distant cousins of Chinua Achebe’s lizard who having jumped from the high Iroko tree to the ground, decided to sing praises for himself when no one seemed to have noticed his gymnastic feat; can never let a publicity opportunity go to waste.

Blues’ Orators, as per our unique tradition on this column, facts must always come first. Therefore, please allow me to dispense this week’s bunch of facts.

Facts:

• Government has signed a deal with a financier of the K400 billion Lilongwe-Salima Project.
• Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe confirmed this.
• The financier, Trissag Espanola of South Africa with headquarters in London, was conveniently identified on our behalf by Khato Civils. “An agreement has been entered that 35 percent of the loan will be granted without interest,” Gondwe said.

More facts:

• Asked to clarify whether the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had endorsed the deal, Gondwe said the loan no longer requires approval from IMF as it was not a sovereign guarantee, but rather a bank guarantee.

A sovereign guarantee is a promise by the government to discharge the liability of a third person in case of default while a bank guarantee is a promise from a bank or other lending institution that if a particular borrower defaults on a loan, the bank will cover the loss.

Very big fact:

• In both cases, never mind the jargon, you and me – as taxpayers – will take a direct hit when things fall apart. Just as was the case with the MSB toxic loans.

“We have renegotiated the loan. It is now concessionary, 35 percent interest free, and the interest on the whole amount is at 1.8 percent, with 30 years repayment period, increased from 15 years. There is also a five-year grace period,” Gondwe said adding,

“We are in discussion with the Reserve Bank of Malawi [RBM] in preparation of this bank guarantee because the funds will come from commercial banks. When everything is done, it will be taken to Cabinet to review the changes and for approval.” Apparently, the renegotiated deal includes an agreement to cater for irrigation projects in Salima in the project’s second phase.

Up to this point, good old Goodall was on a roll.

That is, until the simple question of the actual amount of money paid to Khato came up.
While Gondwe was willing to confirm that government had paid Khato ‘some money’ as part-payment for the works, he could not provide the most important thing: the actual figure.

Funny for a guy heading the Ministry of Finance to happily provide all sorts of information BUT be reluctant to divulge the only detail that matters: how much of our money has gone down the water drain!
However, Goodal Gondwe being who he is, i.e. a guy who can’t be trusted to even declare his assets, no surprises there.

The question: “how much of our money has been paid to Khato” bullied off a spirited Ping-Pong match:

• Gondwe pushed the responsibility of informing us how much Khato has carted home to Lilongwe Water Board (LWB).

• LWB chief executive officer (CEO) Alfonso Chikuni, neither confirming nor denying the payment made to Khato Civils, hurled the ball back to Gondwe and his folks at the Treasury.

• Finding it too hot to handle, the very person in charge of the Lilongwe-Salima Waterway Project, the CEO Modesta Kanjale, was also elusive as to the amount that has changed hands. She duly completed the circus by tossing the ball back to the Ministry of Finance.
The ball refused to stop bouncing.

• Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Gray Nyandule Phiri, deflected it back to LWB.

• Khato Civils spokesperson in Malawi, a certain Mr Taonga Botolo, just fell short of invoking the Fifth Amendment or its local equivalent.

Question: If this project is greatest thing to happen since the smartphone and if every cent in this extortionate and secrecy shrouded project is being spent for our benefit, why the mystery?
From experience, when government and contractors behave like this Blues’ Orators, it means that

a) something is fishy and

b) sooner or later it will crop up for the valiant defenders of our hard-earned rights to add to that the string of lawsuits dodging this project.

How long did it take us to learn about the K3 billion payment to Mulli? How about the K145 million presidential kickback, did it stay hidden forever?
I have three points to make, feel free to add yours.

First, Goodal Gondwe – a finance minister allergic to assets declaration- knows very well that he will not repay a cent of these humongous debts he is creating. He should therefore have the decency to let us know how much of our future he is auctioning willy-nilly so that we can brace ourselves for the coming hell.

Secondly, if the benefits we will derive from this monkey business indeed outweigh the cost, why all this secrecy?

Could it be that something has or will ‘stray’ back to that sole signatory bank account and hence the less we know the better?

Finally, despite all these shenanigans – beg your pardon – perhaps because of this tomfoolery happening as it is a few months to elections, Goodal and his pals should rest assured that come May 2019 they will either be:
a) applying for amnesty if Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima wins, or
b) facing the Zero-Amnesty-4-Thieves wrath Dr Lazarus Chakwera who could, ironically and thanks to Democratic Progressive Party – DPP, eat his cake and still have it.
Blues’ Orators, in our unenviable situation where we have a government that is accountable only to itself and an opposition too pliant to the whims of anyone with potential campaign funding, Stokes’ advice is as good as gold.

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are not necessarily the views of the Publisher or the Editor of Maravi Post

NBS Bank Your Caring Bank