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Envoy forced to refund allowances

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Former head of Malawi’s United Nations Permanent Mission in New York Brian Bowler has been forced to pay back $450 after an audit report said he overdrew his mission allowances.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, however, told Bowler not to refund $2,000 which he got as a settling allowance for four days and vehicle hire charges amounting to $906, among others.

The issue is contained in Auditor General’s Report for the Year Ending June 30, 2013, which is being scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) of Parliament.

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Some of the issues raised in the report are lack of effective internal controls and wrong claims by Bowler.

Former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika in 2010 appointed Bowler to be head of Malawi’s UN mission. However, he is currently serving as Malawi’s Ambassador to Brazil.

Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Isaac Munlo said a $2,000 top-up allowance was in respect of settling allowances for four days for Bowler and his family upon his arrival in New York to take up his diplomatic post which he said was in order, according to conditions of service of diplomats.

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However, Bowler paid back a sum of $200 which he got as a top up allowance on his trip from New York to Thailand.

Bowler also paid back $250 which he got as a top-up allowance on a trip from New York to Japan.

“The Ministry further wishes to inform the committee that Ambassador Bowler paid back the USD250 whose evidence was submitted to the Auditor General,” Munlo told meeting on Thursday.

Munlo also explained that Bowler was not supposed to pay back $1,618 which was issued to buy household items such as light bulbs, cleaning materials, toilet brushes and kitchen towels in readiness for the arrival of the diplomat.

“Some food items amounting to $110 were purchased as a starter pack for the residence in preparation for the incoming ambassador,” said Munlo.

The pincipal secretary also said it was normal for the mission to hire a vehicle for Bowler, saying the mission had no running vehicle, saying this was why the mission paid out the $906 for the car hire.

Pac accused the Malawi UN Permanent Mission in New York of lack of effective controls after an audit report indicated that there were two payments for a house of former first secretary Janet Karim.

“According to the tenancy agreement for the house which was being occupied by the First Secretary Janet Z. Karim, the mission was supposed to pay USD7, 000 comprising USD3, 500 to serve as a guarantee to the landlord for the property and a down payment of USD 3,500 to ensure that the house was not allocated to someone else,” said Munlo.

He said a second payment of $10,500 was actual payment of rentals for the period in question.

Blantyre City West MP, Trasizio Gowelo, wondered if it was true that Karim’s landlord would demand a guarantee payment for a house. He told the ministry to find out if this was not a scam.

Pac Chairman Alekeni Menyani told Munlo to ensure the ministry is on top of issues in Malawi missions abroad to avoid wastage of public money.

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