Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative (AGI) has quit as adviser to President Joyce Banda, a British newspaper has disclosed.
But a commentator has said the Capital Hill cashgate scandal, where billions of Kwacha were looted in government, might have influenced the decision.
According to The Telegraph of Sunday, January 5 2014, Blair and his team of advisers, however, claim the decision to leave had nothing to do with the cashgate scandal.
The paper said Blair’s staff has been advising the President on how to run the country. But at the end of this month, AGI, a charity set up by the former prime minister, will quit Malawi, the paper says.
The paper also quotes presidential press secretary Steven Nhlane as admitting that Blair was indeed withdrawing his team, but insisted the events were not linked to the cashgate.
Nhlane is quoted as saying the stepping back of the AGI staff was planned before the corruption scandal broke.
“They have not withdrawn per se, the agreement was that they wind up their work here before the May 20 tripartite elections,” he said. “This is according to plan. It’s not because of any emerging issues at all.
“The relationship between President Banda and [former] Prime Minister Blair is still cordial. AGI has said they are open to come back whenever invited again.”
But political analyst Mustafa Hussein said that much as AGI has denied leaving because of the cashgate scandal, the issue might have influenced their decision.
“They might have left at some stage, but the scandal might have influenced their quick exit,” he said.
According to Hussein, AGI has sent the message that something is wrong within Malawi and that a solution should be found as quickly as possible.
The paper said AGI, a not-for-profit organisation, has been working closely with Banda for about 18 months but stepped up its “Malawi project” in January last year when it sent four advisers to Lilongwe.
When asked by The Telegraph last November, Blair did not indicate that AGI might be stopping its operations in the country. But he came under fire, the paper said, for pleading ignorance over the scandal until it became public knowledge in September, after the shooting of former budget director in the Ministry of Finance, Paul Mphwiyo.
The cashgate scandal has seen the arrests of several people in connection to the looting of over K20 billion (about $50m) of the public purse.