Some embassy drivers are receiving a higher salary than that of President Peter Mutharika, a revelation that shows mismanagement of funds is not the only disease haunting Malawi’s diplomatic missions.
As the country is still smarting from reported abuse of funds at its foreign missions, Nation on Sunday can reveal that some chauffeurs are receiving $7 000 (about K5 million) a month, yet Mutharika’s salary is pegged at K1.5 million after attempts to increase it met stiff resistance such that the President deferred the hike alongside the salary for his Vice-President Saulos Chilima.
Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs Dalitso Kabambe confirmed in an interview the issue of overpaid drivers, who are citizens of countries where the missions are located.
He cited currency fluctuation as the reason for those working for Malawi missions to pocket huge salaries.
Kabambe said the drivers, who are employed as expatriates, on average are receiving $7 000 (K5 250 000), but he hinted that some were even getting more.
According to the ministry, these embassies include those in United States (US), Belgium and Japan.
“We have a scenario where a chauffeur of a diplomat is getting money than the diplomat he is driving and even the [Malawi] President,” said Kabambe.
However, the PS said government is removing from service the highly paid foreign staff through the ongoing reforms which will also see the country recall some of its own diplomats.
He also confirmed that the ministry is sending auditors from the National Audit Office (NAO) to probe some missions following the order from Mutharika.
Kabambe added that the country’s foreign policy planners and implementers are making hard and painful choices to improve efficiency in the running of the country’s foreign affairs services as reforms in the sector begin to pay dividends. International Relations Committee of Parliament chairperson Alex Major confirmed that the committee was informed of the ongoing salary structures at diplomatic missions.
“These are issues as a committee we expect responses on and are looking forward to changes.
The salary inconsistencies are just one area of financial concerns in the embassies. There are reports of fraud, too, and we are happy to hear that government is launching a probe on all these issues,” said Major.
Kabambe said so far 72 diplomats have returned home as government has been able to reduce the number of diplomats and local staff.
The total personal emoluments for missions has been reduced from K966 768 845.61 in June 2015 to K620 679 808.17 allowing Lilongwe to save K 346 089 037.44, according to figures released by the ministry.
“The saved amount could have gone, minus the reforms, not only to salaries, but also payments such as rentals for diplomats’ houses and school fees of their children. Government is poised to make a saving of K7.3 billion over two fiscal years owing to the way we are managing our missions abroad,” said Kabambe.
As part of reforms in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, government has recalled about 72 diplomats from its foreign missions in the past six months translating to savings of about to K2.8 billion.
There are 19 Malawi foreign missions of which eight are in Africa, four in Europe, five in Asia, one in South America in addition to the United Nations mission in New York, United States of America.