By Serah Makondetsa:
First Lady Gertrude Mutharika and Vice-President Everton Chimulirenji’s wife Judith’s trip to the United Kingdom (UK) has attracted attention and criticism in the English press and back home over the reported cost of expenditure that the taxpayers will shoulder.
Last week, the local press reported that Mutharika travelled to the UK with seven aides to attend the graduation of her son Tadikila Mabfuza on a trip that would cost K30 million.
However, it was later discovered that Judith Chimulirenji followed Mutharika with her own entrourage of 10 people, increasing the money spent on the whole trip to K50 million.
A source, who opted for anonymity, said the VP’s wife followed Mutharika barely days after she left.
“I can confirm to you that what you are seeing on social media about the First Lady and the Vice-President’s wife being in the UK is the truth. The cost of the trip has, indeed, shot to K50 million,” the source said.
The Daily Mail of the UK also reported on the First Lady’s trip to the UK.
“The First Lady of a desperately poor African state which receives £65 million a year in aid from British taxpayers has spent an estimated £80,000 on a trip to London,” read a post on www.dailymail.co.uk.
“Gertrude Mutharika, wife of the President of Malawi, came to Britain last week to witness her son’s graduation ceremony.
“She and a large group of aides have been staying at the five-star Dorchester Hotel, where rooms typically cost £700 to £900 a night, with a price of up to £5,500 for suites.”
Presidential Press Secretary Mgeme Kalilani Sunday dismissed the English newspaper’s report.
“The story is based on guess work and speculations. Otherwise let them bring the evidence of what they are saying.”
Charles Wahara, Vice President’s Press Secretary, was non-committal on the matter.
The Daily Mail reported that Mutharika hired a UK-based security team to accompany her.
The Presidents (Salaries and Benefits) Act entitles the First Lady to travel abroad on private trip and fully paid by the government.
But the law is silent on the entourage.
Further, the law states that the spouse is entitled to travel abroad privately at the government’s expense, but this restricted to three times a year for a duration not exceeding 14 days each.
In April 2019, monthly expenditure report indicated that State Residences were allocated about K7 billion which was exhausted at mid-year.
Last week, it was locally reported that Mutharika is accompanied by seven State Residence officials, including security, who have taken K315,000 ($420) each per day for the 10 days.
The allowances translate to K3.1 million per individual and K22 million for the seven for 10 days.
The First Lady’s entitlement and accommodation for the entourage mean that the amount could be higher as an average air ticket from Malawi to London is pegged at K900,000 which adds up to K7.2 million for the whole team.
However, the amount could be higher as fares vary from one airline to another.
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