LILONGWE-(MaraviPost)-Malawi State House on Monday, September 28, 2021 justified President Lazarus Chakwera’s recent frequent travels, saying the President needs to get first-hand impression of projects taking place in the country.
Acting presidential press secretary Anthony Kasunda told the Bi-weekly State House Briefing in the capital Lilongwe that Chakwera needs to meet Malawians hence the travels.
The justification comes amid observations that the President is spending more time on the road on petty events which his aids and ministers could handle.
Kasunda said the President spends over 80 percent of his time in office.
“You will agree that the President needs to go out and appreciate all the developments that are taking place. He should meet Malawians, hear them so that when he is in the office, he can make decisions influenced by what Malawians want,” says Kasunda.
He added that there are several stakeholders in the country who are giving government a helping hand; hence, it is imperative to visit and show gratitude for the work they are doing.
Since winning the June 23 2020 court-sanctioned fresh presidential election, Chakwera, like his predecessors, has been attending a number of public functions.
The functions include inspecting development projects, church activities and presiding over functions organised by both the State and private institutions.
In the last three weeks, the President has been to Mangochi, Blantyre, Chiradzulu and Nsanje attending such events.
However, political and social commentator Humphrey Mvula told Nation Newspaper that while some of the functions that the President has attended may not be so presidential, he is doing it more for political visibility.
Mvula said Chakwera is trying to show Malawians that he is doing something, at the same time he wants to be seen to be a President that is available to all Malawians.
“The President receives invitations to preside over these functions and he does not want to say no for political reasons. He wants to be seen to be fair and good but the challenge is that he will end up attending many functions to please everyone and this has a cost,” observed Mvula.
On supervision of projects, Mvula said there could be two possible reasons; that his ministers are not doing enough to popularise the government projects or it could be an issue of competition within Tonse Alliance where the leader wants to be seen to be on top of things.
Centre for Social Accountability and Transparency executive director Willy Kambwandira said while it is important for the President to inspect some projects in the interest of financial prudence the President does not need to attend every function or inspect every project but instead he should delegate such to his ministers and district commissioners.
“We feel the President is justified to inspect projects. This helps him to appreciate the quality of the project and value for money.
“However, some of the projects are small and do not require the President’s inspection. They can be monitored by ministers and district commissioners to enhance value for money,” observes Kambwandira.
According to a former State House official, on average, a presidential local trip costs between MK7 million and K9 million per day for fuel and allowances for staff that accompany the President.
But for Mangochi and Mzuzu it costs even more after factoring in accommodation expenses since both Chikoko Bay and Mzuzu State Lodge do not have expansive accommodation space as is the case with Kamuzu and Sanjika palaces.
The presidential trip outside Kamuzu palace, Lilongwe cost taxpayers about MK20 million a day.