With an annual wage bill of K360 million for President Lazarus Chakwera’s 20 special advisers, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) has advised the President to walk the talk on financial prudence, and trim the numbers.
HRDC national chairperson Gift Trapence observed in a statement issued yesterday that the aides have over the years added no value to the presidency other than making the presidents goof.
Said Trapence: “After all, the functions that these aides perform are repetitive to those that are performed by Cabinet ministers, principal secretaries and directors in government ministries, departments and agencies.
“Ironically, Cabinet ministers act as an advisory council on policy direction. This begs the question why the President should have another layer of advisers in the name of presidential aides.”
Prior to the 2014 presidential election, Chakwera hinted on having a 20-member Cabinet, and said he would legally make that figure a standard for all upcoming administrations.
Earlier, State House confirmed that Chakwera’s five chief advisers are in grade C—equivalent to the position of principal secretary. Their monthly salary, as confirmed by the Department of Human Resources, is around K1.4 million, and 400 litres [K400 000] of fuel monthly. Other benefits include free water, free electricity, free DStv subscription and a motor vehicle.
According to Trapence, it is unacceptable that scarce public resources that could have been used to buy drugs and build schools should be wasted on aides whose job is only but a duplication.
Chakwera’s list of aides includes adviser on chiefs’ matters; parliamentary affairs; arts and youth; disability and persons with albinism and religious affairs, and chief advisers on rural transformation and development, public policy and governance, strategy and manifesto implementation, sustainable development goals and internal relations; the economy, and political affairs.
In an earlier interview, political analyst Happy Kayuni attributed the bloated team of advisers to political appeasement.
The University of Malawi lecturer, however, warned that the President’s conduct has the potential to damage government’s image.
The 31-member Tonse Alliance administration’s Cabinet and presidential advisers cost taxpayers nearly K1.6 billion in salaries and benefits annually, which is K500 million more than that of the Democratic Progressive Party administration.