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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07LILONGWE194
2007-03-14 13:13:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Lilongwe
Cable title:  

ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE BITES THE DUST

Tags:   PGOV  KDEM  KCOR  MI 
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VZCZCXRO5116
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHLG #0194 0731313
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141313Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3971
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHLMC/MILLENNIUM CHALLENGE CORPORATION WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
						UNCLAS LILONGWE 000194 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE PASS TO USAID
STATE FOR AF/S KAMANA MATHUR
STATE FOR INR/AA RITA BYRNES

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM KCOR MI
SUBJECT: ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE BITES THE DUST




1. (SBU) Summary: With raw Malawian power politics on full
display, Parliament rejected the President's nominee for
Auditor General on March 13. The rejection, the latest in
a string of high profile presidential nominees to be
refused, comes as a result of government's inept management
of parliament as much as from its political weakness. The
lack of an Auditor General continues to hamper the
effectiveness of a number of activities in Malawi's
Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Plan. End Summary.



2. (SBU) Voting along party lines, the opposition sent a
clear message to the plurality government regarding its
weakness in parliament. The nominee's fate seemed clear on
March 9 when Deputy Minister of Education Roy Commsy--one
of Parliament's youngest MPs--shouted at Leader of
Opposition John Tembo during debate on the confirmation,
yelling that government didn't "need the opposition." This
comment provoked Tembo, who proceeded with a brutal
demonstration of who is in charge.



3. (SBU) Tembo's party had voiced concerns publicly over
nominee Steven Mchenga's qualifications, and privately over
Mchenga's Southern Malawi origins (Tembo's Malawi Congress
Party is regionally based in Central Malawi). However
both Tembo and United Democratic Front (UDF) leader George
Mtafu took Commsy's comment as a direct insult. The UDF,
which had quietly been willing to support the nomination,
quickly changed sides and announced its opposition to the
nomination. Tembo's Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the
UDF combined for one hundred and three votes against the
nomination, with the government only able to muster sixty-
one votes in favor.



4. (SBU) The government will now be forced to come up with
another candidate for the position, which fell vacant in
January of 2006 upon the death of the previous Auditor
General. The Auditor General's office has the primary
responsibility for auditing all of government's annual
budget reports and reporting its findings to Parliament.
This has become a crucial role as Parliament seeks to
exercise more of its constitutionally mandated oversight of
the executive.



5. (SBU) Comment: The government lost this vote primarily
due to its lack of organization and discipline, a point
which has repeatedly brought trouble in Parliament.
Government leaders in Parliament often fail to adequately
control or organize the membership, and back-benchers often
speak intemperately out of turn, causing problems for their
party. While Commsy is certainly to blame, in the end this
comes down to poor management by the Leader of the House,
Henry Chimunthu-Banda. His relaxed, almost lackadaisical
style fails to serve his party well, and sometimes, such as
in this instance, leading directly to self-inflicted
wounds.



6. (SBU) At a functional level, the continued lack of an
Auditor General hinders the implementation of parts of
Malawi's Millennium Challenge Threshold Country Plan, which
includes over $500,000 of program support to the National
Audit Office (NAO). Without an Auditor General, the NAO
cannot officially release its annual audit report of the
government budget. This creates a serious problem for
parliamentary oversight, as Parliament cannot analyze
issues with past budgets without this information. The NAO
should play a significant role in ensuring the fiscal
responsibility of the Government of Malawi. However, the
office has been historically weak and faces problems
retaining qualified staff. The continued lack of an
Auditor General will make solving this problem, and
achieving some NAO goals set out in the MCC Threshold Plan,
difficult to achieve in the short term. End Comment.

EASTHAM