The Ministry of Natural Resources has disclosed its plan to take members of Parliament (MPs) under the Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Climate Change and journalists from selected media houses on a tour to the projects, which were financed under US$50 million (about K40 billion) allocation.
The tour is in reaction to the public outcry that officials from the ministry might have plundered the resources under the guise of a bogus tree planting exercise under the Shire River Basin Management Programme (SRMBP).
SRBMP was an integrated project aimed at addressing interlinked challenges in the basin and was multi-sectoral in nature. It was designed to benefit 400, 000 people across project areas of Ntcheu, Neno, Blantyre, Zomba, Machinga, Mangochi, Nsanje and Chikwawa.
Its interventions focused on implementation of ecological preservation and/or management interventions in two targeted national parks of Liwonde and Lengwe and the promotion of a tested participatory community forest co-management approach in the five targeted forest reserves of Neno Eastern Escarpment, Mangochi, Liwonde, Zomba Malosa and Matandwe.
But during the recent budget sitting, MPs piled pressure on the Minister of Natural Resources, Nancy Tembo, demanding that her ministry should explain how it expended the money the august House allocated to the programme.
They feared that the taxpayers’ money might have been looted through a bogus tree fake planting exercise.
But speaking in an interview on Saturday, Tembo insisted that the project achieved planned targets under the component.
She said the ministry is planning for field visit to the sites for the Parliamentary Committee and Media to appreciate for themselves the deliverables from the project.
“This project was implemented from 2012 to 2019 and the total cost for Component B was initially US$45,000,000, but revised to US$26,253,638 with actual expenditure of US$26,253,637. Some funds were reallocated to Kamuzu Barrage and Shire Basin Building in Blantyre,” said the minister.
Tembo added that the first phase of the project concentrated on planning for the Shire Basin as per the design including consultations, setting up local structures/institutions such as village local action plan committee, project implementation committees, and common interest groups.
She said the plans were to be implemented in subsequent phases of SRBMP or any other projects while funds for procurement of inputs and materials for various interventions identified in the village local action plans (VLAPs) were sent directly to the communities.
But Tembo disclosed that the programme faced some challenges, including lack f part two disbursements by the Treasury even though the original cost tables for the project incorporated this financing source.
Additionally, added the minister, the programme suffered serious exchange losses due to fluctuations between the US$ and the XDR composite index because the IDA financing was denominated in XDRs soon after initial costing and signing of the financing agreement.
“There had been serious challenges for the project to remit tax obligations to MRA [Malawi Revenue Authority] within the squeezed resource envelope while most of the contracts for consultants and contractors required that such obligations be taken care of by the government through the project.
“Overall, the project managed to achieve planned targets under the Component and the ministry is planning for field visit to the sites for the Parliamentary Committee and the media to appreciate the activities implemented under the project,” she said.