Malawi's president Joyce Banda has disclosed that she saved about K13 million from the government coffers by using a commercial airline during her recent visit to Mozambique to attend the Sadc heads of state summit.
Speaking at a press conference in Lilongwe on Sunday, Banda said she was conscious of the economic challenges the country is going through which has in turn hit Malawians hard.
She reiterated her stance to sell off the presidential jet as her contribution to austerity measures the government has instituted, but said she was open to suggestions from experts and Malawians alike on the best option.
"Just for the trip to Mozambique, to take me there using the jet, it would have cost government K16 million, but K3 million if I used commercial airline with frequent stops. But I thought to myself, that's medicine in our hospitals and opted to fly commercial," Banda said.
She said she had a made a decision not to use the plane until a conclusive decision is made by experts on whether to sell it and recover costs or put it up for hire and recover costs slowly.
"Even if I don't use it now, it is still incurring costs at the airport. We have to hire pilots from Holland to fly it, when we have our own sons who could also do a good job. I have asked cabinet to seek expert opinion on what to do with the plane and the exercise, headed by the vice president, is still on-going," she said.
Meanwhile, Banda has hinted at investigations into how Surestream Petroleum was awarded an oil exploration license and the process which took place following reports in the media that money exchanged hands.
During the press conference, Banda also touched on a number of issues among them her appointment as vice chairperson of the SADC bloc, which she said would not need an extra budget and cost Malawians more money, as the AU chairperson did two years ago.
Malawi will host the Sadc summit in Lilongwe in August 2013.
On the Tanzania and Malawi boundary dispute over the lake, Banda said talks with her Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete were fruitful and discussions would commence at ministerial then technical level to iron out differences. The discussions are expected to start Monday in Mzuzu and end on Saturday, August 25.
She ruled out the use of Sadc to iron out the boundary differences unless dialogue is exhausted and unless conclusions are not forthcoming.
Banda commended the Malawi media for their sober reporting on the boundary wrangle unlike their Tanzanian counterparts, whom she said were full of war- mongering.