The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) is spending almost US$250,000 ( K43 million) to build a swimming pool at the Governor’s official residence in Lilongwe’s expensive neighbourhood of Area 43.
Over US$200,000 (K36 million) of this amount has already been spent on the project which is nearing completion, central bank officials disclosed this week.
The amount in dollars is almost half the cost of an Olympic size swimming pool of 165 feet by 82 feet in size, which according to figures sourced on the Google search engine fetches around half a million dollars.
Reserve Bank spokesman Ralph Tseka admitted that the construction has already cost the central bank K36 million. He said the cost of building the pool had exceeded the original estimate by K2 million.
By September 30, the bank had spent K36,185, 835 on the pool. The total cost of the pool, which is K43,479,735.29 , is enough to supply 10 district hospitals with essential drugs like antibiotics,
painkillers, intravenous liquids, Pethadin, an antibiotic used to treat accident victims, pregnant mothers in pain.
This is also enough money for the bank to renovate its properties in Lilongwe’s Area 11 and Area 43 its rents out which have become eyesores in the city.
But despite flagrant display of opulence, Tseka, who is also a director in the Governor’s office, has defended the project as well as the money being spent on it.
“What you should understand is that this is an official residence of the Governor and not his private. It is RBM property and so RBM can put any development project on it. When the Governor goes, the next one will enjoy the same privileges as well, so do not personalise this issue to the current governor,” he said.
The swimming pool project, our investigations reveal, started before the incumbent Governor Perks Ligoya took office in 2009 following the resignation of his predecessor, Victor Mbewe.
But Mbewe, who served from 2005 to 2009, decided not to go ahead with it because it was costly. In an interview with the Weekend Nation on Tuesday, he explained his decision.
“At first I was interested in the swimming pool because I thought it was going to give me a chance to exercise but when the budget came to K35 million, I dismissed it because it was immoral and unreasonable to spend such amounts of money when we could use the same money to build
a house for another officer,” he said.
Last year, the RBM Board, which is chaired by Ligoya by virtue of his position, decided to revive the project and set aside K41 million for it–K6 million more than it was expected to cost when Mbewe dismissed it.
The multi-million Kwacha swimming pool project is the latest in a series of central bank extravagances which have so far directly benefited the Governor.
In a memo dated 27 September 2010, the RBM Board adopted a resolution on the allied benefits of Ligoya.
The resolution allows the bank to pay for the Governor’s wife to fly first class with him whenever he travels outside the country for more than seven days. It also entitles her a foreign travel allowance at
the rate paid out to heads of department of the Reserve Bank.
A head of department, records show, is entitled to a basic rate of US$275 per day as a transit allowance and US$85.94 per day in addition to a full daily allowance of US$343.75. This adds up to US$704.69 per day.
A day after the Reserve Bank of Malawi Board approved the resolution, Ligoya travelled with his fiancé Ms Gift Tenacy Kasambala to Harare and from there to Washington for the joint World Bank/IMF annual meeting.
The two only got married this year at the Silver Club in Lilongwe.
Meanwhile, records show that the central bank picked up the tab when Ligoya and Kasambala travelled together last year. Details of these excesses were revealed in a Weekend Nation report published earlier this year.
All these expenditures have been transacted at a time when RBM’s financial position has shrank by K518 million to K164.1 billion in March this year from K164.6 billion made in June last year, according to the latest 2010 economic report.