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Government backtracks on UNGA list

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Despite making a commitment to disclose names of delegates who have accompanied President Peter Mutharika to the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly in the United States of America, government has changed tune saying such information will be given to Parliament.

Government was also expected to make public as to how much the trip has cost the taxpayer but according to Minister of Foreign Affairs Francis Kasaila, the executive does not owe the media an explanation on how it uses its finances.

During a press briefing held in Lilongwe last week Monday, Kasaila indicated that the country was going to be represented by a reduced entourage and pledged to disclose the details.

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But in an interview on Thursday from New York, Kasaila said after analysing the pledge government had made, it realised that the arrangement is irregular.

“It’s like we are creating a parallel structure of reporting for government. As government we are expected that every 6 months we should report to Parliament on expenditure, so if we give that information to you it’s like we are undermining the responsibility of Parliament. We would therefore rather report to the MPs as by law,” said Kasaila.

The minister has since challenged the media to use its skills and capacity to establish the names of people who have travelled and how much government has spent this time around.

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Kasaila also added that his office will not spoon feed journalists on logistics of the President’s travel arrangements but only said that Mutharika used private jet to Johannesburg and that he used a commercial airline from Johannesburg to New York.

“There are a number of factors that are considered when President is traveling, issues of security and whether traveling commercial would inconvenience the head of state or the other passengers.”

In an earlier interview Public Relations Officer for USA Embassy in Lilongwe Edward Monster said he could not divulge the number of people who have been issued visas to fly to USA for the general assembly saying such information is regarded as confidential.

“We do have that information but it is against the rules to disclose, I can only provide you with information on how one can apply for a visa, and that is the standard across the world,” Monster said.

During a similar trip last year, reports showed that over 100 people including ruling party functionaries and chiefs flew out to New York.

It was estimated that the trip cost over K330 million.

However, Mutharika rubbished the reports as untrue, adding that most of those that travelled had been funded by UN agencies and other non-government organisations.

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