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Government in embassy reshuffle shame

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Government has been recalling staff from Malawi embassies around the world in a purported rationalisation drive but the exercise could have some sacred cows, Malawi News can report.

In one such case, government is arranging for immigration training for Mwayi Dausi, son to National Intelligence Bureau chief Nicholas Dausi, who has been Third Secretary at Malawi High Commission in London instead of recalling him.

Interestingly, the same government recalled Nellie Mkandawire who is a qualified immigration officer from London.

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Mwayi does not have immigration qualifications but has now to discharge duties that are related to immigration.

The ministry acknowledges that he “has very little knowledge on finger printing and other immigration related issues but has been re-assigned the duties of Counsellor, the position whose post holder is responsible for immigration related duties.”

Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry has written the Chief Immigration Officer in a memo dated December 6 2016 to offer training to the officer in the London embassy.

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The letter with the headline “Training on Immigration issues” has reference number EAPF/2/24 and is signed by B.P Ng’oma on behalf of Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Reads the letter: “I write to request if it could be possible for you to train one of our officers based in London on issues of immigration more especially on finger printing. You may wish to be informed that the officer has very little knowledge on finger printing and other immigration related issues but has been re-assigned the duties of Counselor, the position whose post holder is responsible for immigration related duties.

“We are planning to call this officer for training once we hear your position on our request. Looking forward to your usual cooperation.”

Dausi confirmed that Mwayi is his son and that he was posted to the embassy during former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s time.

Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Rejoice Shumba also confirmed the recall of Mkandawire.

“As for Nellie Mkandawire, she was working as Counsellor and the position remains vacant after the recall whereas Mr Mwayi Dausi was appointed to fill a vacant position of Second Secretary Administration,” said Shumba.

Information on the website of the Malawi High Commission in London shows that Mwayi was working as Third Secretary responsible for consular affairs.

Spokesperson for the Immigration Department Joseph Chauwa confirmed the recall of their officer, Nellie Mkandawire, and replacement with Mwayi.

He said some officers were recalled and the department has not sent any of its officials for about six months.

“We are usually asked by government to identify officers to go to embassies but as of now some officers have been recalled and for six months now we haven’t been told to identify any,’’ he said.

Chauwa said some processes like processing visas require immigration officers on the ground at the embassies.

Shumba said the ministry is not sending unqualified staff to the embassies.

“It is not correct that officers without requisite skills and training are being deployed to Malawi missions abroad to take up positions for which they do not have competences,” she said.

According to Shumba, the procedure to send diplomats to embassies is that when a vacancy arises in a Malawi mission abroad that requires filling, a particular government ministry, department or a agency responsible for that position is requested to nominate three candidates out of which one is selected by the authorities to go and represent the Malawi Government as a diplomat at that position.

For example, Shumba said, if a position of a counsellor falls vacant, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will make nominations; Trade, Tourism and Investment Attaché (Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism; Immigration Officer (Department of Immigration); Defense Attaché (Malawi Defense Force) and so forth.

Asked why government is recalling diplomats and sending others too when it said it wants to reduce the numbers, Shumba said:

“In cases, where replacements are being proposed, it’s only where the numbers are too low for the proper functioning of the embassies and in any case, where such proposals are being made, numbers will not exceed the limit of 6.”

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace and Chancellor College political analyst Mustapha Hussein have warned government against flouting procedures and promoting nepotism.

“Any institution which uses tax payers’ money including embassies ought to follow the principle of merit; however it is becoming a practice that nepotism seems to be taking an upper hand. As a result the development goals of Malawi may not be achieved,” said Hussein.

“If you take an audit of most of the foreign embassies you find that most of the people are those who have connections with politicians and all this boils down to possibilities of inefficiency because most of them are not there because of merit. Again in a way it is like punishing people who merit those positions because those who are not qualified are given positions because of their connections,” he said.

Chiphwanya said government should ensure it sends qualified staff to embassies.

“In a competitive global village, countries strive to have diplomats with relevant work experience and an understanding of the craft of diplomacy and international relations.

“Having less qualified diplomats disadvantages Malawi in many ways. It would be difficult for such crop of diplomats to ably advance our nation’s interests in a compelling manner in the best interest of our country,” he said, adding:

“It is embarrassing to have a diplomat who does not understand the demands of his or her job. It is a total waste of taxpayers’ money.”

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