Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe has claimed that he is not aware of the cost of renovating the Ministry of Agriculture building despite budgeting for the building’s refurbishment in the 2017/18 national budget.
Gondwe told Parliament on Tuesday he does not know how much it will cost to renovate the building.
Fire destroyed some offices in the Ministry of Agriculture office building at Capital Hill in February this year, at a time when the then Minister of Agriculture George Chaponda was at the centre of the maizegate scandal.
During the debate on the vote for Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Member of Parliament for Rumphi East Kamlepo assumed that the K300 million for renovation works at Capital Hill would be used for refurbishing the Ministry of Agriculture building only.
He asked Gondwe why government had allocated such a huge amount of money for the renovation.
“If that office needs K300m how much will it take to rehabilitate all Capital Hill buildings,” queried Kalua.
In his response, Gondwe said the money will also be used for repainting other buildings at Capital Hill adding that the renovations already began using money from the 2016/17 budget.
When Kalua asked how much it would take to rehabilitate the agriculture offices, Gondwe said he did not know.
This led Second Deputy Speaker Clement Chiwaya to joke that “the minister has the details but he does not know”.
Kamlepo further asked the minister to justify a K250m allocation for the construction of a conference centre.
Responding to that question, Gondwe urged Kamlepo to visualise a conference centre at Capital Hill and determine how much it would cost adding that it is not the first time government has built a conference centre at the Capital Hill.
In the 2017/18 budget, government has also set aside funds to construct a clinic and a food court at Capital Hill.
However, Dedza East Member of Parliament Juliana Lunguzi asked why government is constructing the clinic when there is another clinic at Area 18.
She also claimed that Parliament has been allocating funds for rehabilitating the clinic for the past five years.
Her claims were shot down by Gondwe who said government has been failing to construct the clinic due to lack of funds.
Minister of health Peter Kumpalume chipped in saying his ministry had been concerned over the lack of a health facility at the Capital Hill.
Meanwhile, Parliament has approved the allocation to the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.