When newly appointed Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba unveiled additional austerity measures, little did she know that a team from her office will be the first culprits.
The National Intelligence Service (NIS), which is under the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC), on Saturday held a meeting at Sunbird Livingstonia Beach in Salima contrary to one of the measures. The SPC announced last Tuesday restricting meetings to boardrooms within duty stations.
Zamba was not immediately available for comment on Monday, but Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Sosten Gwengwe told a press conference in Lilongwe that she is investigating the NIS on how they went behind her back to hold the meeting in Salima.
He said: “The OPC is a big government department and NIS, I make no apology, is part of the OPC and somebody from NIS for whatever reasons decides to hold a meeting at the lakeshore. This doesn’t make sense and the SPC has not sanctioned it.
“She [the SPC] is investigating this issue to hold to account the director who authorised this aspect. Someone has to be held accountable because we cannot be going two steps forward and one step backwards. That will not be tolerated.”
Zamba announced a ban on lakeshore or out of duty station meetings for government ministries, departments and agencies a week after President Lazarus Chakwera unveiled measures to cut expenditure and stabilise the economy.
Meeting notices at Sunbird Livingstonia Beach went viral on the social media showing OPC as meeting in Nyanja Room on June 11 2022.
A senior official at OPC said the NIS meetings at Sunbird Livingstonia Beach were booked before the ban was effected, but there was need to seek authority from the SPC following the new directive.
Said the officer: “Following the ban one would have expected the NIS to inform the SPC that they had a booking made before the ban, as such, cancellation would be another waste of resources.
“It does not make sense that an agency under OPC should be the first to defy the set order. All they needed was an explanation to the SPC and all this wouldn’t have been an issue.”
For security reasons, according to our source at OPC, NIS publicly conducts business under the OPC tag.
NIS director general Dokani Ngwira could not be reached for comment.
The measures that the President announced included a 20 percent cut in fuel allowance allocation to Cabinet ministers, restriction to a maximum of three foreign trips up to the end of the year and a freeze on new vehicle purchases by government agencies.
Ironically, the set measures have previously been instituted by government and have largely failed due to lack of discipline.