Government has said it does not have a contractual agreement with the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) for Global Change, which is in the country to ‘help’ strengthen the current administration’s delivery and implementation mechanisms.
Information Minister Gospel Kazako has said, in response to a questionnaire, that the assistance is in kind and, therefore, Lilongwe cannot make public any contract because it does not exist.
He was responding to queries on why government has not disclosed the alleged agreement, but also why it has not engaged local consultants to offer help.
Explained Kazako: “The Malawi Government did not advertise anything on procurement of a consultant services to assist on governance issues. So, the Malawi Government could not make anything public since TBI came on [their] own through the communication that went on between His Excellency the President [Lazarus Chakwera] and the former UK Prime Minister [Tony Blair].
“There is no contractual agreement between the Malawi Government and TBI. The assistance is in kind since TBI is a non-profit making institution that fundraises its operations from philanthropic endeavours, foundations like Bill and Melinda Gates and other financing institutions.”
Kazako also claimed that local institutions have not yet offered any help to government.
He added: “The non-State actors have not yet come out to offer guidance and support on how best the President’s agenda can be turned into reality. TBI came to assist the President and the key priority ministries to re-align the priorities and ensure that the vision is achieved without missing the targets.”
Speaking during a press briefing in Mzuzu yesterday, Youth and Society (YAS) executive director Charles Kajoloweka argued that the TBI creates a parallel structure to the reforms being championed by the Ministry of Economic Planning and Public Sector Reforms.
He said Malawians believe that the current crop of leaders, in President Chakwera and his deputy, Saulos Chilima have the capacity to transform the country, and soliciting international help on matters that can be handled locally was unsound.
Argued Kajoloweka: “Hiring of TBI is a vote of no confidence in the Presidency, local governance institutions, academia and Malawian citizens. We believe Malawi has capacity to execute the basics that TBI is being hired for. Malawians want a functional Presidency and not Consultancy.
“We strongly believe that Chilima and his ministry have adequate capacity to fix the governance lapses TBI is being hired for. We have a very competent Vice-President who needs our support. This TBI noise has the potential to undermine the gains and the spirit of reforms. We should not create a parallel reform programme.”
The YAS leader has since urged government to abort the TBI engagement, arguing, even when the same was hired during the Joyce Banda regime between 2012 and 2014, there is ‘nothing’ that can be shown to have changed in the country.
YAS projects officer Dalitso Magelegele challenged authorities to make the contract public, with clear Terms of References (ToRs).
He said: “In the absence of the Contract and TORs, this remains wishful thinking. Already the fact that TBI will be operating from State House is clear indication of Malawians spending their taxes on TBI.
“Undoubtedly, if not Malawians, someone is paying for the TBI services. Who are these are and their interest in Malawi? In any case, this is not about costs but about whether we need TBI services. The services the Government is seeking are too basic that should be handled by the local capacity.”
According to Blair’s website, the institute is looking to set up new projects to support the government of Malawi to strengthen its delivery and implementation mechanisms.
“This is likely to include a delivery function in State House, but also potentially support other parts of the Presidency e.g. communications, international affairs. The project will need to be established and demonstrate results in a short period.
“It will need to be proximate to the President, and always remain relevant to his key priorities. It will also need to identify and implement technological solutions to key Presidential priorities,” it reads.