Malawi President Peter Mutharika was on damage control mode in the United States of America (USA) when he refuted a Nyasa Times story he is staying in a New York hotel that is costing Malawi taxpayers about K7 million per night.
This week Nyasa Times reported that an unprecedented number of delegates had accompanied President Mutharika and that a cool MK400 million has been spent in expenses ranging from air travel, accommodation to allowances.
President Mutharika is scheduled to present his maiden address to the Assembly as Malawi’s Head of State on Thursday, September 25, 2014.
But addressing a group of journalists in the presidential entrouge at his posh Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Park Avenue, New York, the Malawi leader described his room as the smallest of all presidential suites and a few blocks away from the UN secretariat.
“I am not crazy to stay in a hotel room that costs $17 000 [about K6.8 million] per night. It is unimaginable how someone thinks I am crazy to do this. I am not crazy,” said Mutharika.
He claimed “nothing closer to the claimed amount was being spent on his accommodation.”
“On a normal day, my room costs about $390, but because the rates of almost everything in New York go up during the UN General Assembly, at the time I came it cost about $2 000 [about K800 000]. For those that are coming now, it could be costing about $2 000 plus,” he said.
President Mutharika also refuted that his delegation had 68 people, claiming.
He said “ the delegation from State House is about 20 people. There are people from ministries who have come to attend meetings that are relevant to their ministries. There are also people who have been funded by the private sector.
“We also have six journalists; three from Malawi News Agency, two from Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and one from the private media: Nation Publications Limited.”
Meanwhle, Nyasa Times understands that Mutharika’s Personal Assistant, Ben Phiri, included his wife in the presidential delegation to New York using taxpayers’ money. The wife does not work anywhere near government.
The only expense that government has been spared on her is accommodation as she is sharing a room with the husband at Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Nyasa Times can reveal that Twammie Chimungu, Phiri’s wife, is among the ‘delegates’ attending the 69th UN General Assembly.
Highly placed State House sources indicate that Ben Phiri’s wife is categorized as a ‘Guest of the President’ alongside several ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) cadres and traditional chiefs.
Traditionally, Heads of State in Malawi may invite a modest number of ‘guests’ to accompany them on such trips, according to an administrator at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
“However, the criteria used to invite this particular guest (Twammie Chimungu Phiri) is suspicious,” said the administrator, preferring anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Other people making the entourage includes government ministers and top officials, security detail for the President, intelligence officers from the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) and the Malawi Defense Forces (MDF), journalists from both the public and private media and Ben Phiri’s brother, Matino Nkasala, among others.
State House has booked Mutharika’s support staff in Waldorf Astoria Hotel .Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :