Some of the people that were appointed to take positions in, or recalled from, Malawi’s diplomatic missions are yet to take their positions or be repatriated due to lack of funds, The Daily Times has learned.
We have also established that there is resistance from some of the recalled diplomats.
This far, the government has recalled 70 diplomats from the country’s missions across the 19 embassies and high commissions it has around the world but only 40 have arrived in Malawi, representing 57.14 percent.
At the same time, the government has appointed 168 diplomats to represent the country in different capacities in Malawi embassies and high commissions across the world.
However, only 60 have gone to take their positions, representing 35.71 percent.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Rejoice Shumba said the process was ongoing and expensive.
“You have to understand that the process involves huge sums of money because it is not just posting but we are also recalling some diplomats. For the diplomats to come home, we must arrange for their travel, family and belongings.
“The ones we appointed cannot go while there are other people still in those positions. There is also resistance by some of the recalled diplomats, who are not willing to come back citing school [obligations] for their children and others,” she said.
Shumba said if the worse comes to the worst in terms of the resistant diplomats, the government would have to revoke their status and, at that point, it would stop sponsoring their children’s education and paying their diplomatic allowances.
But some of the recalled diplomats who are yet to arrive back into the country have blamed the system the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is using for the delays.
The diplomats say the ministry appointed one agent to be coordinating the repatriations which, they say, takes long, inconveniencing their children at school.
“We, as recalled diplomats, are being inconvenienced because the process of signing housing contracts becomes complicated. We are also facing inconveniences when seeking healthcare services.
“It’s not about money. Some of the embassies make money but why should the government appoint one agent in Malawi to be looking after other agents worldwide and to be responsible for finding shipping companies? This company does not even follow government procurement procedures of getting at least three quotations and then choosing one company to deal with,” said one diplomat.
McWilliams Mhone, proprietor of Universal Freight Solutions which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has contracted, declined to comment on the allegations, saying we should speak to the ministry itself.
“I do not work for the government. Talk to the ministry itself. They have all the answers for you,” he said.
Shumba said the ministry contracted the firm to lessen the burden on the ministry, saying it would have been too much if the ministry were to be dealing with individual freight companies for specific diplomats.
“The delays they are talking about would have been even longer if we were to be handling the processes ourselves. We have also been serving foreign exchange because the agency has its ways of finding foreign exchange. You should also understand that. And, again, this was done in the spirit of promoting local firms, which the country’s leadership is advocating,” she said.
Shumba said the agency was a private institution and was not bound to follow government procurement procedures.
She asked for more time to come up with figures of how much the recalls and postings need but our sources say to repatriate a diplomat from the United States, for example, shipping alone is $35,000 and if issues of air tickets and the cost of transferring other family members are considered, the taxpayers coughs around $40, 000.
In Europe, the sources say, it takes about K20 million per diplomat but within Africa, the cost can be around $15,000.