MPs cut command centre  budget

MPs cut command centre budget

MASERU – THE 70 officials at the National Emergency Command Centre will no longer enjoy lavish meals.
This after the parliament cut provision of both dinner and tea.
The price of lunch has been slashed from M250 to M100 per person.
The government was paying caterers M250 for dinner per person and M120 for tea.

If the officials had remained at the command centre for six months the government would have paid a staggering M7 million, money that could have fed thousands of families affected by the national lockdown.
The decision to cut some meals and reduce the price of lunch will save the government nearly M6 million that MPs says should be used to buy testing kits and protective clothing for doctors and nurses.

Parliament’s Economic Cluster chairman, Sam Rapapa said it was wrong that millions were being spent on meals during a national crisis.
The parliamentary committee also reduced the budget for installation of Wifi at the command centre and its satellite offices in the districts. The centre had budged M300 000 but the committee slashed it to M30 000.
Allowances will only be paid to health officials.
The committee said the savings will be used to provide food parcels to poor families.

The parliament intervention follows a public outcry over what seemed to be massive opulence at the centre. The outcry was started when the command centre’s budget was leaked on social media.
The government later said the leaked budget was only a draft that was later changed but the public was already up in arms, accusing the officials of living large when people were starving during the lockdown.
The leaked budget showed Covid-19 team was using about M7 million on food alone.

The budget for Wifi for the command centre has been set at a massive M900 000, with M210 000 on airtime.
The installation of a GIS system for geo mapping was priced at M1.8 million while the connection of nine district administrators’ offices with routers and switches had been set at M500 000.
Some half a million had been budgeted for a thermo scanner.

Other things such as reflectors, accreditation cards, computers, a TV set, educational materials brought the today budget to M698 million, a figure that many viewed as inflated.
The government has quickly moved to quell public anger.
The parliamentary committee this week heard Finance Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro’s proposal to amend the covid-19 budget to M659 million.

Dr Majoro told the committee that the government will have a dedicated structure and budget for fighting the pandemic.
He said the government will review the 2020/21 budget estimates to allocate more resources to fight the pandemic.
This means there will be severe cuts on the capital budget.
The Covid-19 budget will be managed by the Disaster Management Authority (DMA).

The Accountant General opened an account for the fund.
The government is also seeking assistance from international donors, local businesses and development partners.
Several local companies have already donated materials and money to the government while international partners have pledged financial assistance.

Negotiations have been completed with both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank for loans.
The committee said given the liquidity problems in the country the government ought to explore other economic and social relief measures such as credit guarantees that do not require cash.
Rapapa said it is clear that the budget was skewed.
“Now there is M8 million available to go to the Health Ministry for ambulance services,” Rapapa said.

He said they prioritised personal protective equipment (PPE) and accommodation for health officials.
He said the budget is for only six coming months as they expect the lockdown will be over.
Rapapa said M659 million from capital budget will be taken from the cabinet to the Disaster Management Authority (DMA) account as it deals with disasters.

He said the covid-19 requires water so the government must pay attention to the water sector.
He said they were told 1300 tanks will be installed in different schools including Mohale’s Hoek and Hlotse Prisons.
A member of the economic cluster, Tšepang Mosena, said the government should pay businesses it owes.

The government has promised to pay the M1.1 billion it owes to the private sector.
Last night Dr Majoro told thepost that he had asked the parliament to give him two days to review his revenue projections for this year’s budget.
He said it was clear that revenues will be reduced because of the Covid-19 crisis.

“I want to have a clear picture on how much we are likely to have as a country. This is because the Covid-19 crisis will have a severe impact on the revenues,” Dr Majoro said.
“I wanted to give the parliament and Basotho an honest assessment of the projected revenues.”

The pandemic is expected to affect revenues and stall economic growth. Companies could shut down and thousands might lose their jobs.
Hundreds of thousands will not have enough to eat.
All this piles pressure on a government that is already struggling to meet its obligations.

Nkheli Liphoto

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