The Parliamentary Committee on International Relations has expressed surprise that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is disputing the $13 000 bill for the rented accommodation for Malawi’s High Commissioner to Kenya when the figure was provided by the same ministry during a cluster meeting of the 2018/19 National Budget.
Chairperson for the committee Alex Major was reacting to a press statement from the ministry on Wednesday in response to a story which appeared in our sister paper Nation on Sunday dated August 5 2018 which exposed that government was spending a lot of money on rentals for its envoy in Kenya.
The story brought to light how government paid an exorbitant monthly bill in housing High Commissioner Agrina Mussa, who vacated an official residence for a hotel apartment under Panari (hotel) residences in Westland, something the ministry said followed a security scare and the state of despair of the house.
But in an interview, Major insisted that the figure which was presented by the ministry to the cluster committee on defence, security and international relations which he chaired was $13 000, adding that the committee has no reason to ‘create figures’.
“This was a cluster report and a cluster report cannot just come from the blues. I do not take notes while we are in deliberations. We have people from secretariat taking notes and what we presented was just a sketch report on what we discussed because we cannot just take each and every issue. But I should say this is not a dream—it is coming from a credible source which is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This [figure] is not from me, this is not from the committee, but it is from Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” he stressed.
Apart from solely relying on a parliamentary report, Nation on Sunday corroborated the information with other sources who confirmed that government was footing the bill for its ambassador who has been in the hotel apartment for the past two years.
When we raised a question with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on why Malawi was paying such a high amount (of $13 000 per month) instead of rehabilitating the residence—in response to our questionnaire the ministry’s spokesperson Rejoice Shumba dismissed the $13 000 monthly bill, saying it was Ksh13 000 (Kenyan Shillings) which amounts to about K94 000 at current exchange rates.
“The residence maintenance will be completed this financial year. Its budget was approved. The exact time will be determined by the release of funds and fulfilment of all the relevant procedures including no objection by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets [PPDA] office. Just to mention, there is no house we are renting for $13 000, it is Khs13 000,” she explained.
But when we queried the claimed figure of Ksh13000 (K94 000) in a telephone interview on Friday, Shumba changed the figure to $6 000 as a monthly bill.
In a statement released to dispute the facts of the story, the ministry further trimmed the cost of the apartment to $3 500.
“The fact of the matter is that the High Commissioner is renting an apartment at $3 500 a month while the rental entitlement for a high commissioner is $6 000,” reads the statement in part which also claims that the Malawi mission in Kenya was reopened in November 2013—when it actually opened in March 2013 with Brigadier General Chirwa as the first Malawian envoy.
According to the legislator, they have summoned officials from Foreign Affairs to appear before the committee and the issue about the Nairobi residence is top of the agenda.
Malawian High Commissioner to Kenya abandoned the official residence after an alleged armed robbery—which took advantage of a broken fence.