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Calls for scrutiny of presidential aides

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Mustapha Hussein

Malawi should have a system that should subject individuals picked to serve as presidential aides to thorough scrutiny before they are fully taken on board to avoid embarrassing the presidency.

Analysts have made this call as three of President Lazarus Chakwera’s special aides are tangled in controversies, continuing a tradition of presidential advisors behaving badly.

Some of former president Peter Mutharika’s aides are currently in court for being involved in scandals during their incumbency,

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In the case of Chakwera, Martin Thom, who was Executive Assistant and Special Advisor on Religious Affairs, was fired for his unsanctioned role in the irregular submission of a loan authorisation bill to Parliament.

Chris Chaima who was Chakwera’s Advisor on Strategy and Manifesto was fired from his advisory role after he was arrested in connection with fuel contact deals at the National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma).

And Presidential Advisor on Rural Transformation Adamson Mkandawire is alleged to have borrowed K378 million from Karim Batawalala to “transfer cargo from Nairobi”.

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On these developments, University of Malawi (Unima) and University of Livingstonia (Unilia) political analysts Mustapha Hussein and George Phiri respectively observed that there is no established accountability system on which presidential appointments of such nature are reviewed.

“The way these people are appointed needs to be re-examined. What are the qualifications? What does the President take into account when appointing these people? Is it because of the party loyalty or some other connections?

“Because they are paid from public resources there is need for a proper way of recruitment. There has to be a system that is based on merit and not just the president’s preference. There has to be a job description,” Hussein said.

He said the appointees take advantage of their association with the president to break the law.

“Another point is the powers that these people enjoy probably because of association with the State House. They think they are above the law. Another angle that needs to be looked at is to whom are these people accountable? Is it just the president? Should they not be accountable to the public or to some other institution within the public service to ensure that they are also on card. In short issues of recruitment, control, job description, they all come to play,” he said.

On his part, Phiri said looking at the current situation, the President has to be cautious of the people he appoints because being his associates, the scandals they commit are tarnishing his government.

“It is the prerogative of the President to appoint his advisors…it just shows that he has to be very cautious with the personalities he appoints in that capacity.

“This is a wakeup call to the President that when he appoints people to the State House he needs to appoint people who can uphold ethics and he needs to appoint people who will follow procedures; otherwise it is the country that suffers the most when things like these are happening,” he said.

However, acting Presidential Secretary, Anthony Kasunda, said everyone that directly reports to the President is vetted rigorously before being appointed to any position.

“And once appointed, everyone who reports directly to the President is held accountable for their conduct in office. The fact that there are now consequences for wrong behaviour from State House officials is proof that President Lazarus Chakwera has established an accountability system within his administration, which is precisely what he meant when he told Malawians that he would build a new Malawi that upholds the rule of law,” he said.

Scandals involving Chakwera’s aides are coming at the time Mutharika’s security aide, Norman Chisale, is answering charges in court related to how he amassed wealth and the abuse of the former president’s tax exemption privileges.

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