Malawi President Peter Mutharika has taken a delegation of over 100 people that included cabinet ministers, security aides and support staff to attend the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, it has emerged.
Insiders say Mutharika left the country with a large entourage of officials and hangers-on who have turned the annual UN meetings into a shopping opportunity and feasting (Mapwevupwevu) adventure for his cronies.
“The effect of such trips on the fiscus is unbearable,” a senior government official said.
“It does not need 100 people,” said the official. “What he needs are the relevant ministers, supporting staff and aides, not an army of officials.”
Social commentator Stanley Onjezani Kenani said Mutharika has broken the record to the first Malawian President to take such an entourage to New York.
“This reform is a joke. We are told the Junior Certificate must go, apparently to save K2 billion, while at the same time spending a good fraction of a billion on cronies the President is taking with him on a shopping trip to New York,” lamented Kenani on Facebook.
“We’re focusing on some parastatals while not touching the biggest spender of public funds — State House. We cannot talk about reform while allocating unjustifiable billions of kwacha to State Residences.
“We cannot talk about reform while the President is spending recklessly. We cannot talk about reform while the President’s motorcade still has 32 cars. Until we see real change in the budgets for State Residences and in international travel, reform is a game of make-believe,” argued Kenani.
Nyasa Times findings show that President Mutharika’s inner entourage comprises ruling DPP sympathisers from Thyolo, his wife, doctor and political associates.
But Director of Information, Bright Molande said “it is difficult for us to comment on a blanket figure, let’s analyse it.”
He told Zodiak radio: “We have to analyse who is funding who.”
Molande hinted a number of people in the delegation are ruling DPP sympathises being funded by the governing party, but said his comment on that was merely “hypothetical position”.
Every year in the month of September, World leaders converge in America to discuss issues affecting the globe.
This year, it is expected that among other issues, leaders will report on the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) which they had agreed 15 years ago while also endorse new sustainable development goals that countries will have to focus on for the same period of time.
Speaking at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, Mutharika said Malawi has only managed to achieve four out of eight agreed millennium development goals.
The President, however, blamed the country’s failure on lack of finances especially from development partners who he said were good at making promises to support and yet could not honour their promises.
“As a country we wouldn’t say we have done bad, no, we have tried our best only that insufficient funds were and has been our major setback” he explained.
Mutharika then described his attendance to the UN meeting as crucial since it will cover a range of issues including youth and women empowerment, HIV and Aids as well as environment.
“This is a very important trip as leaders are going to tackle issues affecting the world with focus on local resource mobilization and how we can reduce new HIV infections,” Mutharika said.
About 17 new Sustainable Development Goals will be agreed up on by the world leaders during this meeting. –Additional reporting by Wanga Gwede, Nyasa TimesFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :