Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chief executive officer (CEO) Chancellor Kaferapanjira has attracted criticism for accepting to also serve as President Lazarus Chakwera’s chief economic adviser.
Kaferapanjira is expected to advise the President on the economy when MCCCI most of the time also advises government and lobbies it on economic policies.
MCCCI, an apolitical and economic think-tank and private business bloc, is renowned for its role to counter government’s bad policies and has always lobbied government on what it considers as viable policies.
Both State House and MCCCI have separately confirmed that Kaferapanjira is getting a salary as CEO Chamber while government has offered him a Toyota VX, gives him allowances and accommodation whenever he travels to Lilongwe in his capacity as presidential chief economic adviser.
But University of Malawi’s Chancellor College associate professor and political scientist Boniface Dulani has faulted Kaferapanjira’s decision, arguing that he is conflicted and is putting the whole MCCCI in a quandary.
He argued that both jobs require Kaferapanjira’s full attention, and there is clear and serious conflict of interest, wondering who would police him to ensure the government vehicle and fuel, for example, are not being used for MCCCI business.
“Obviously, there are going to be occasions when attending to Chamber business, he is urgently required to attend to issues at State House or the other way round. In that scenario, which one is he going to prioritise? One would, obviously, suffer. He will always have divided attention,” argued Dulani.
He said people can genuinely speculate about the conflict, adding that the Chamber CEO would have opted to take one thing—either remain at MCCCI and decline the appointment, or proceed to State House as presidential adviser.
“While he is serving both positions, people from the private sector connected to him can seek favours knowing he is closer to the seat of power. His claim of working pro-bono [without pay] is not even making sense. What is a pro-bono when you are pocketing allowances, offered accommodation and given a government vehicle and fuel? You cannot call that free service to government,” Dulani argued.
He also blamed the President for accepting such an arrangement, arguing that Chakwera would have been bold enough to tell Kaferapanjira to either work with him to build the Malawi economy or to remain at chamber.
Political commentator George Phiri questioned the President’s wisdom in appointing Kaferapanjira to serve him in that role when he already had technocrats in that field in Minister of Finance and Minister of Economic Planning and Development.
Asked to comment on the perceived conflict and other issues, Kaferapanjira declined, and said: “Please direct these questions to the chief of staff at State House and the president of MCCCI. They are best placed to respond to your questions.”
In an interview, Presidential press secretary Brian Banda said when Kaferapanjira was appointed, he asked the President to serve him on pro-bono.
He said Kaferapanjira goes to Lilongwe for a week in a month and does not get a government salary, but drives a VX, receives fuel allocation and allowances that cater for his accommodation and up-keep.
Asked if the President does not see the conflict, Banda declined to take that question.
In a response to a questionnaire, MCCCI president James Chimwaza said the chamber noted that the appointment of MCCCI CEO was specifically attached to the presidency and not mainstream civil service.
“Learning from how private sector resources are absorbed in boards of government entities (i.e. parastatals) and other public sector institutions, we observed that there are three major avenues that are followed, namely (i) the officer resigning from current position to join government on full-time basis, (ii) the officer is released by his/her employers on secondment to government while remaining on private sector employment, or (iii) the officer is released by the private sector as and when required in public service on part-time basis in which case he or she would not be paid normal remuneration.
“The CEO, who had the prerequisite to choose among these options, opted for the third route. This process was managed by a specially constituted subcommittee of MCCCI council whose outcome was shared with the entire council and membership representatives,” he explained.
Asked about the perceived conflict, Chimwaza said the council was of the belief that Kaferapanjira would provide the President with trending theories and experiences in the private sector, which when married with those of the public sector, would be based on comprehensive input.
MCCCI is a private sector lobby group and more often it takes government to task on a number of economic issues; or advises it, this time around, Kaferepanjira and his team would formulate a position on an issue, but would be expected to advise the President on how his government would go about that particular issue.
Kaferapanjira in December 2011, in his position as MCCCI CEO, blasted the late Bingu wa Mutharika, urging his Democratic Progressive Party administration not to live in denial because the economic woes facing Malawi then were as a result of government’s bad policies, a stand he would most unlikely take today if the Chakwera administration would get it wrong on the economy.