BY HENRY KIMWANA MHANGO
President Lazarus Chakwera would save more than one billion kwacha (US$ 1.3million) tax payers Money spent on salaries and other benefits for eleven Ministers per month if he could adopt a 20 member cabinet set by his predecessor Peter Mutharika in 2014 _, the Citizen Eye estimates._
On Thursday, Chakwera postponed reshuffling his 31 member first cabinet which has been rated by most quarters as resource consuming and poorly performed.
And the public has been calling the president to cut his cabinet to 20 members to match the country's state of economy and ensure competitive performance.
According to our estimates each Minister is entitled to K3.5 million ($4,458) Monthly Salary, K800 000 ($1,019) housing allowance for those living in private houses, 2000 litres of fuel estimated at K1.8 million ($2,293), 250 000 airtime ($318), K50 000 ($63,6) MASM (medical scheme) membership monthly contribution, and K50 million ($63,694) loan of which half of it is refunded by tax payers.
They are also entitled to atleast 8 domestic trips per month with a minimum estimated allowance of K60 000 ($76,4) each and atleast one foreign trip costing an estimated K5 million ($6,369) .
This means government has spent an estimated K880, 440,000 ($1,121, 579) for salaries and benefits of eleven cabinet Ministers .
The figure excludes costs for foreign trips , salaries and benefits for their personal assistants, drivers, body guards and running costs for their perspective ministries.
Government could not yet confirm the costs but a former cabinet Minister who spoke on condition of annonymity claims that the current cabinet members costs might even be higher since the above estimated costs applied to the previous cabinet members.
Peter Mumba, a Mzuzu based youth activist says Chakwera would still have performed better without the eleven Ministers , and channel resources to procurement of medical supplies or roads rehabilitation.
"The president needs to understand that we are in economic crisis largely contributed by the Covid-19 pandemic and local citizens remain the most vulnerable.
"I think it will please voters if he could even appoint 15 Ministers and save 50 percent of the resources spent on the current 31 member cabinet ," Mumba said.
In 2014 the former president Peter Mutharika appointed a 20 member cabinet including himself and his Vice to save public resources and ensure performance competition.
Chakwera who was then Leader of Opposition in Parliament supported the idea and demanded Mutharika to make it constitutional to be a long-term goal.
"It is in this regard that the Malawi Congress Party's position is that even the reduction of cabinet size to 20 should be included in the Constitution," Chakwera was quoted by the media in Parliament as he was reacting to President's first State of the National Address in June, 2014.
Charles Kajoloweka, a development and governance activist says even the tonse alliance government recommends and promised a lean member cabinet to save public resources.
"I think President Peter Mutharika demonstrated and showed to the country that it's possible and doable to have a 20 member cabinet.
"And if you look at the MCP manifesto, they have committed to have a lean cabinet in a bid to reduce expenditure on government," he told _the Citizen Eye._
The development and governance expert believes it is not time for the president to begin partying and rewarding each other politically but serve the country.
"We don't need all that bloated cabinet when the President has the whole village of advisors, some of them we don't even understand there roles.
"We believe that the current administration can do with 20 or even less member cabinet, it's not about the quantity but quality of people you assemble, work ethics, efficiency, capacity and commitment to the work," Kajoloweka states.