When the organising committee of the late President Bingu wa Mutharika's funeral announced they would spend K150million, reactions from a cross-section of Malawians was sharply divided, with some saying it was justified to spend so much on a send-off for our former president while others said it was a lot of money and that the budget needed to be curtailed.
But now we have been told that the budget has shot to K242m, and we are still counting. We really have no qualms with the budget rising to the level it has gone. On account of some of the unbudgeted for expenditures that the committee is bringing out, it does make some sense that the budget had to shoot.
But we would like to emphasise that it ought not to be a runaway budget because there is life hereafter. As is often the case in such scenarios of heartbreak, pain and loss sometimes people tend to focus on the present and forget about what comes after tomorrow.
Our former president deserves a send-off befitting his status but after that, we are back to confront our situation. The country is facing many challenges that will need money. Particularly, we urge the committee to ensure that every Kwacha has proof on what it has been spent on because we do suspect there are going to be fingers fiddling with the cookie jar.
We know the government machinery is at full speed to give the President a dignified funeral, as it should be. We also know that most top civil servants, the police, the army, diplomats who have flown from abroad, will need to be accommodated, fed and draw allowances in their course of duty, but we say don't take advantage of the situation to milk this poor government.
On the same score, we also urge prudent use of the fuel our dear neighbours Zambia handed over to use to help ease transport blues. That fuel should not find itself on the black market, as this will be tantamount to abusing the generosity of our benevolent neighbours.
Simply put, we are calling for transparency and accountability to prevail in all transactions to do with the state funeral. Every penny has to be accounted for.
We are sure that for a man who built his first term on a zero-tolerance campaign, this is what our departed president would have wanted and strict accountability in public expenditure is what our current president has called for.
Everyone has to be held responsible for how they account for public resources.