I endured reading the press statement Minister of Information and government spokesman Jappie Mhango issued this week where he was ng to trash a recent print media story that the bloated number of presidential advisors at 16 is a drain of the public coffers and cancel out the envisaged savings from the lean cabinet of 20. To say the least, the statement was a good attempt at confusing readers with irrelevant figures.
Now, rtain things are better not refuted; especially when you don’t have convincing evidence to support your argument.
Because when you do so in order to draw people’s attention, you froth in order to be heard and the problem with that is that you delve into details that expose irregularities, inconsistencies, contradictions and outright lies which together don’t make sense. Such indeed was the case with the statement that my good ole friend Jappie issued some four days ago refuting a story of three weeks ago.
In the first place, Jappie did not refute that there are 16 presidential aides grossing over K307 million annually from the public purse. So in the end, the statement turned out to be a successful attempt at confusing readers with unnecessary figures. In all fairness, his attempt to be very meticulous with figures only succeeded in confusing himself. As they say the devil is in the detail.
I will pick just one example. Very high up in his statement he says four presidential advisors have no cars. Then halfway down the statement he says five don’t have vehicles. In Tumbuka this qualifies for the saying—mphakumwa, yayi mphukugeza—what one says when one does not know or have nothing to say.
This must have left a majority of those who endured to read the whole statement with the sad impression the good minister—or whoever drafted it for him—just cooked up the figures. By the way, which presidential adviser boards a minibus when going to work? So a fulltime adviser to the President has no vehicle!! Ghee!!! What type of advice do they give the President?
I was thinking that in his refutation Jappie was going to talk about the number of presidential aides—that it is not true that the President has as many as 16. But sadly he has no problem with that number, some of whose job descriptions are as vague as are their designations. In terms of job description, how, for example, is an advisable on national unity different from one on domestic issues or on special duties?
Indeed, the surviving truth when all is said and done is that despite President Peter Mutharika maintaining the cabinet at 20, his battalion of his aides erodes the goodwill the lean cabinet is supposed to avail the administration.
All that the innocent story said is that austerity measures should not be sugar-coated. Since the good minister has decided to drag readers into an unnecessary debate, he may wish to be reminded that he omitted a very crucial aspect in his statement that will make readers develop goose flesh by the time they finish reading this article.
All but one or two presidential advisers do not have offices at State House. The President’s legion of aides is, therefore, rented offices downtown in the expensive upmarket City Centre such as Kang’ombe Building. This detail was not in the story which Jappie is refuting.
Because offices for the presidential advisors are dotted all over City Centre in the Capital, Lilongwe, at a minimum each of the 15 or so aides has an office messenger and a cleaner with their own chain of perks. Some of them even have personal secretaries. They have their own budgets for stationery, teas, snacks, internet, ground lines, cleaning materials, et cetera. Their budgets are, therefore, not small change. I will not bother readers with figures. But I am sure you will agree with me that renting several offices at City Centre in different buildings runs into several millions of kwacha a month.
Now I leave it to readers to compute the omitted perks about renting 15 offices at City Centre and see if they do not cancel the savings that the 20-member cabinet is supposed to make. My advice is that when you have nothing to say, say nothing.