Malawi activists shocked with K308m JB travel bill to America

Malawi activists and commentators have expressed shock with revelations that President Joyce Banda’s maiden trip to the United Nations (UN) general assembly in New York, United States of America (USA) has cost the government about K308 million in air tickets, accommodation and allowances.

The figure according to published reports has been bloated by the huge delegation that has accompanied the President including traditional leaders, clerics, Members of Parliament, relatives and ruling People’s Party cohorts.

Meanwhile, Nyasa Timesis reliably informed that another group of at least 15 members left for US on Monday via Chileka airport just two days after the President left.

President Banda: UN travel bill at K308 million

The group, according to Nyasa Times airport sources, comprised of Nsanje Lalanje MP Sam Ganda, southern regional PP youth director Leman Chapitapansi and Dowa legislator Bauleni Mmana among several other party cohorts.

Constitutional scholar Dr. Edge Kanyongolo of the University of Malawi said the cost of the trip is contrary to the spirit of penny-pinching required by the current economic situation.

“This appears excessive and contrary to the spirit of frugality that the current economic situation demands,” said Kanyongolo.

He therefore advised the Banda administration to be transparent and provide a general breakdown of the expenditure.

On his part, prominent human rights activist Undule Mwakasungula said such extravagance is of concern to many Malawians especially at a time when the government is preaching about cost cutting measures in order to salvage the economy.

“That of course must be a concern to the nation. As the government is talking of the Economic Recovery Programme it has to look at cutting the expenditures such as cutting local and foreign trips,” observed Mwakasungula.

Asked to comment on  reports that most of the people on the entourage are chiefs and PP cohorts, Mwakasungula while sounding cautious added that the trip was not supposed to be for sightseeing.

“Am not sure about that information but I thought the trip was more of a working trip than a tourists one. PP should avoid DPP obvious mistakes they can do better than this,” added Mwakasungula.

Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) boss John Kapito who has become a fierce critic of the Banda government has also said it is “shocking”that Malawi is currently in “a very pathetic financial situation and we are appealing to the donor community to assist Malawi and at the same time, we have leadership that is extravagant.”

The developement comes against a backdrop of soaring cost of living that has inflicted misery on Malawians a majority of whom are living in abject poverty.

The Nation newspaper editorial comment said the UN trip bill is “out of sync with the reality.”

Treasury sources told the paper that each member of the 40 member delegation would be paid $280 (K84 000) per day for a period of three weeks.

However, the US embassy in Malawi refused to release information on the list of people that have left for UN trip with the president.

The President is expected back home on October 2 2012.

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