President Peter Mutharika 20-member Cabinet was a winner for him but he seems to have lost the spirit of austerity by overcrowding State House with the inflation-busting league of advisors attracting criticism that most of the characters have nothing to tell him other than gossips.
Ministers are, by nature of their vows, presidential advisors; and analysts say the President does not need a motley crew of pretenders to feed him with lies in the guise of ‘advice’.
Critics argue that Mutharika’s transformation leadership of “business unusual” will be a lip service with his “shopping-spree of characters to appease.”
Presidential advisors are entitled 500 litres of fuel a month (about K400 000), a vehicle which they drive themselves, medical scheme and airtime, free water, free electricity, DStv subscription at a combined cost of almost K300 000 ($434), including a driver and guard who are also allocated about K100 000 ($145) on top of a salary of close to K1.6 million ($2 312), which translates to K25.6 million ($36, 994.21) a month for the 16, totalling K307 million ($443 641) annually.
Human rights activist and Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director, John Kapito, is on record expressing concern that the league of advisors will impact negatively to the austerity measures President Mutharika has been preaching.
He questioned the value they will bring to the office of the President “apart from gossip.”
Among the advisers are chief adviser on economic affairs Collins Magalasi, President brother’s widow Callista Mutharika as chief adviser on safe motherhood, population and HIV/Aids management and chief political adviser, Francis Mphepo.
Other advisers including Symon Vuwa Kaunda on national unity and parliamentary affairs, Annie Makuta (women affairs), Nick Masebo (youth) and Victor Songazaudzu Sajeni (capacity building) are on P3 grade which is equivalent to a director at a ministry.
One critic questioned what will Symon Vuwa Kaunda will be advising the President on ‘National Unity and Parliamentary Affairs’ when there is Francis Kasaira as Leader of Government business in Parliament and yet Malawi is also not experiencing tribal or regional disconnect that the country needed someone to unite us. Besides, Vuwa is not even an MP.
Other presidential aides includes Mabvuto Bamusi as special assistant responsible for the civil society and NGOs, Apostle Timothy Khoviwa as adviser on religious affairs.
There are also, personal assistant on international relations, deputy personal assistant on international relations, special assistant to the First Lady, executive and special assistant on capacity building.
State House ‘reshuffle’
Meanwhile, government spokesman Jappie Mhango has confirmed that there has been a reorganisation of presidential advisors at State House with reports that special aide to the President, Ben Phiri has left and Magalasi who is chief economic advisor has been given additional responsibilities taking up Phiri role as new task as “executive advisor.”
In the shake-up, President Mutharika has hired Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) long-time spin-doctor Hetherwick Ntaba as domestic policy adviser and moved out Bright Malopa who was adviser to the President on communication and strategy . Malopa has been deployed to Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority ( Macra) as adviser on broadcasting.
“Ntaba has come in as chief adviser on domestic policy,” said Mhango, who is also Minister of Information and Civic Education.
Mhango disputed the criticism that Cabinet ministers and presidential advisers are duplicating roles, saying that notion is “flawed.”
He added: “ A Cabinet minister indeed gives advice to the Head of State on certain issues, but he or she has so many other Cabinet responsibilities as well.
“On the other hand, the President’s advisors are a full-time employees to advise the President on certain issues.”.
A newspaper on Saturday, Weekend Nation, reported that Mutharika’s maintenance of a bloated full-time advisory team is on the back of financial and economic challenges facing the country, with government failing to meet budget allocations to ministries , including to public health facilities where drug stock-outs have worsened and patients rarely get the required three meals a day.
On the economic front, annual average inflation rate rose to 24.6 percent in 2015 despite the administration projecting that the general rise in prices would drop from 23.8 percent in 2014 to 16.4 percent in 2015, the paper reported.
Malawi’s currency, the kwacha continues to weaken,and the cost of living is rising faster.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :