The decision by the government to hire public relation officers (PROs) for ministers and deputy ministers has sparked debate as some quarters view it as a move by the Tonse Alliance-led administration to reward its sympathizers and continue with business as usual of political patronage.
On 21 October 2020, the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC), Zanga-Zanga Chikhosi, wrote Cabinet ministers to inform them that the government has approved that their [ministers’ and deputy ministers’] offices should be provided with a PRO who will be on Grade I.
Chikhosi states in the letter that the provision of the PROs will be part of the Terms and Conditions applicable to ministers and deputy ministers.
He adds that the PROs will be engaged on contract terms of employment in line with the tenure of the minister or deputy minister’s office.
“I, therefore, would like to request you, Honourable Minister, to identify a suitable person to be appointed as you PRO so that an appropriate contract could be drawn by the Department of Human Resource Management and Development,” says Chikhosi in the letter.
But this has not gone down well with some quarters, including the Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) questioning the rationale behind such appointments when the ministers and deputy ministers already have personal assistants whom are well trained journalists.
CDEDI executive director Sylvester Namiwa has since issued a statement in which he pours out his frustration, describing the arrangement as a complete duplication of duties and waste of public resources.
He cites the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, which has a full Cabinet minister and a deputy; a PRO; two personal assistants; and two personal PROs will now be appointed for the minister and the deputy minister.
“All these personnel will be swimming in taxpayers’ money. Is this the new Malawi that was promised by the Tonse Alliance prior to the June 23rd Fresh Presidential Elections? Obviously, the voters are the best judges, but CDEDI is of the view that the Tonse Alliance government is now totally disoriented and has engaged an extra gear on its way to self-destruction,” says Namiwa.
He said CDEDI is shocked that the Tonse Alliance government allowed Cabinet Ministers and their deputies to hire personal PROs at a time when the same government is riddled with unprecedented domestic and external debts.
“Records have it that Malawi is experiencing unprecedented budget deficit of about MK754 billion, a situation which is very worrisome and gives no room for extravagance of political appeasement. He said CDEDI believes that this is a well calculated scheme aimed at legitimizing blatant siphoning of taxpayers’ money into the pockets of the Tonse Alliance hand-clappers and bootlickers,” says Namiwa.
Namiwa says it is disheartening to note that the SPC has given a nod to a policy direction aimed at appeasing individuals that are well connected with the ruling elite, and mostly those in urban set-up.
“This is a total contradiction to the Tonse Alliance promise of prudent use of government resources. CDEDI is, therefore, challenging the Tonse Alliance government to desist the temptation of pleasing everyone, because they will end up disappointing everyone. The administration should also not take Malawi as an experimental plot. CDEDI is, therefore, demanding President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera to immediately reverse this retrogressive decision,” he demanded.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :