Malawi Govt justifies ‘extravagant’ spending on UN trip

Malawi Government has made clarification on President Joyce Banda’s entourage to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly to be held in New York, saying each delegate taken on board on the trip will have a role to play and that by involving players from various sectors on one trip the government will save a great deal.

Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu made the clarification Tuesday following a story carried in The Nation of September 18, 2012 which said President Joyce Banda had taken an entourage of over 40 people with her to the UN General Assembly which the paper said would cost MK308m.

Kunkuyu said government had taken advantage of the fact that the 67th Session of the UN General Assembly would draw key players in various sectors across the globe, a development he said would enable the country’s delegates interact with their counterparts all at one time.

Kunkuyu: Banda's predecessor was known to take vacations and extended trips surrounding the UN trip when he did visit

“People have to look at the importance of the trip and what we will benefit as a country following the trip,” said Kunkuyu, “It is a rare opportunity for the president to garner support from development partners world over to assist Malawi in a number of areas.”

He said the President and her delegation would participate in 25 bilateral meetings at this single trip, a thing he said would have been more costly if every player President Banda has taken on board were to make individual trips to meet their counterparts elsewhere.

Explained the Information Minister:  “The ministers and the rest of the delegates would still have to travel at some point to meet their counterparts to deliberate on various issues but by taking them along in one trip the government has saved.”

On the inclusion of traditional leaders on the trip, Kunkuyu said they were not going to the Assembly in their capacity as chiefs but as key players in various tasks President Banda assigned them.

“The Chiefs were being abused in the past,” said the minister, “But this leadership has engaged the traditional leaders in developmental activities such as safe motherhood among others, and it is in this capacity that they are going to the UN General Assembly.”

Before returning home on October 2, 2012, President Banda is expected to make her maiden speech at the Assembly and on September 26, she is scheduled to attend the 28thAnnual AAI Awards Gala Dinner at the Grand Hyatt where she will receive an African-American Institute (AAI) Award for championing women’s rights and business leadership.

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