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Government mum on Unga delegation, expenditure

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By Rebecca Chimjeka:

President Peter Mutharika will lead a delegation of six Cabinet ministers to the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly (Unga).

The ministers include Emmanuel Fabiano (Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation), Jean Kalilani (Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare), Atupele Muluzi (Health and Population), Francis Kasaila (Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development), Cecilia Chazama (Home Affairs) and Everton Chimulilenji (Deputy Minister of Defence).

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At a press briefing in Lilongwe Tuesday, Fabiano said the ministers are going to the United States for specific activities.

But when he was quizzed on why almost 25 percent of the ministers are accompanying the president to the UN Assembly, the minister said it was not possible for one minister to delegate their principal secretaries or technical people as people do not take them seriously.

“There are a lot of high level meetings during the Assembly which need ministers to attend and not technical persons,” Fabiano said.

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However, when he was asked as how many will be in the presidential delegation, Fabiano declined to comment saying it was only the State House that approves the names of people accompanying the president.

“I am in the dark on the list of the people who are accompanying the president,” he said.

Fabiano also declined to comment on how much tax payers’ money would be spent on the trip.

The minister could also not say when the president is expected back in the country.

Most members of the delegation are civil servants drawn from.

Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), as well as advance team members who arrived in New York earlier.

The Daily Times findings show that the president’s entourage comprises security officials, his doctor, First Lady Gertrude Mutharika and political associates.

“The President is expected to leave for UNGA on Friday but will come back as he wishes, and I can’t know how much the trip would cost as the 2018/19 Budget there is an allocation for president travel and for the ministers that are accompanying the president, it is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to know. Every ministry has a budget for a minister’s travel,” Fabiano said.

According to the minister, the Assembly has helped the country citing an example that since last year the government has signed agreements with the United States government worth $19 million.

Commentators have questioned the president’s attendance at the UN Assembly instead of regional meetings such as Southern African Development Community (Sadc) which the president has only attended once in 2014.

The minister said the president has failed to go to Sadc or African Union as it is expensive to attend such meetings as they take place frequently.

The theme for this year’s Assembly is Making the United Nations relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared responsibilities For Peaceful Equitable and Sustainable Societies’.

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