Mystery surrounds the sponsorship of some of the people that travelled to the United States of America for the 70th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) as the official list that Weekend Nation has seen shows President Peter Mutharika approved only 18 people.
Apart from UN-sponsored delegates, it is unclear who sponsored the others who include Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials. However, information that Weekend Nation has found indicates that some of them were sponsored by government institutions including the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) and the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (Macra).
About 121 people are believed to have left Malawi for New York, but in a memorandum Ref EA/17/13/07 dated August 31 to the President, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation George Chaponda proposed 26 people of which Mutharika approved only 18.
“I have the honour to report, that following your excellency’s acceptance to attend the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly scheduled to be held in New York, USA from 25th September, 2015, I have compiled a delegation list of officials that will accompany your excellency,” reads Chaponda’s memo.
The approved list includes Chaponda, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe and Minister of Industry and Trade Joseph Mwanamvekha.
Other government officials are Foreign Affairs Ministry staff—Harvey Chigumula (chief of protocol), Warran Gunda (director of political affairs) and Quent Kalichero (deputy chief of protocol).
It also includes Chief Secretary to the Government George Mkondiwa, Nicholas Dausi (director general of National Intelligence Bureau), Mervis Chilakata (personal secretary to Dausi), Susan Chowe (senior secretary to Mkondiwa).
Other members of the delegation came from ministries of Trade and Tourism and Information.
Commenting on the matter, Information Minister Jappie Mhango said: “The public may wish to know that there is a marked difference between a presidential delegation and a Malawi delegation. Not every member of the Malawi delegation at the UN is part of a presidential delegation.”
He explained that those who make a presidential delegation are staff and officials from selected ministries and departments approved by the President based on their relevance to the agenda of the General Assembly and their importance to his assignments.
“The Malawi delegation is made up of everyone who attends the UN General Assembly from Malawi. Government meets the cost of a presidential delegation. Members of the Malawi delegation are covered by sponsors identified by themselves,” he said.
While confirming about the official list of presidential delegates, Director of Information Bright Molande said the ministry was not aware of who funded the rest in the Malawi delegation.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Molande said in the case of people accompanying the President, like his staff, the State House pays for their expenses.
“What must be understood is that some of the people have travelled using their ministry or department travel budget which was already budgeted for. Ministries plan for travel in their budgets,” he said.
However, information that Weekend Nation has obtained from highly placed sources within Macra and Mera indicates that the organisations funded some of the delegates, but both authorities denied having any knowledge that they sponsored some people for the UNGA.
Marca spokesperson Clara Mulonya said her organisation was not approached by anyone to sponsor those travelling to UN while Mera spokesperson Fitina Khonje said her organisation has no knowledge of the matter.
UN agencies have sponsored some of the delegates who went to UNGA, and in a press statement, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said the Malawi delegation to this year’s UNGA received limited support from the organisation to attend a few key side events given their relevance to Malawi.
“The United Nations respects the sovereignty of its member states and values their engagement. Each member state has the prerogative to decide on the size of its delegation to the UNGA.
“Equally, the United Nations encourages its Member States to prioritise the use of resources effectively, especially at a point in time when tough choices need to be made given financial constraints and the humanitarian needs.
“The United Nations encourages governments to communicate to their people on the purpose and outcomes achieved by their delegations to key international events like the UNGA,” reads the press statement.
In an earlier response to inquiries about funding for the delegation, Chaponda suggested that some of the delegates were sponsored by the embassies of foreign governments.
Weekend Nation has been unable to establish which embassy sponsored the Malawi delegation as the country’s main embassies all denied sponsoring delegates.
US Embassy public affairs officer Edward Monster said his government has not paid for the travel, while German Ambassador Peter Woeste said no funds from the German side have been used to finance the trip for any of the participants.n