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Government, donors want Mec officials on forced leave

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Government, donors and other stakeholders meeting on Tuesday in Lilongwe under a Malawi Electoral Cycle Support (Mecs) Project Steering Committee have recommended that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) top bosses from the position of director to Chief Elections Officer should go on administrative leave to allow for investigations into the plunder of resources at the electoral body.

Already, donors led by Britain have rejected Mec’s explanation regarding expenditure of K15,422,756 between July 2012 and December 2014 suspecting that the money was stolen.

Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Goodall Gondwe confirmed in an interview yesterday that the meeting on Tuesday discussed the need to have an inquiry at Mec and that during the inquiry bosses from the position of director going up should go on leave.

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“Wednesday it was discussed that they go on leave when an inquiry is going to be made. I cannot tell how soon that will be,” said Gondwe.

Asked how Mec will function when all the directors and Chief Elections Officer and his deputies go on leave, Gondwe said: “That is a pertinent question. That is one of the things people will have to think about. Nobody answered that question.”

The decision means that those to go on leave include Chief Elections Officer, Willie Kalonga, and his two deputies for operations, and finance and administration and directors of civic and voter education, media, information communication and technology, human resource management, electoral services, finance and audit and procurement.

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Those in the Mecs Project Steering Committee include donors, directors in government departments who include Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale, Solicitor General Janet Banda, Finance Minister Gondwe who also co-chairs with United Nations Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo, Mec’s Chairperson Maxon Mbendera and civil society organisations representatives.

Gondwe said other issues that were discussed at the meeting included constituency boundaries, the national identification project and the Special Law Commission on electoral reforms among others.

Last year, an audit report by the Central Internal Audit in the Ministry of Finance exposed fraud at Mec involving secretariat staff and some commissioners through among others, dubious claims for field allowances for trips not undertaken.

Mec Chairperson Maxon Mbendera at the time blamed the media for having spread what he described as unsubstantiated reports, referred to by the President Peter Mutharika, as massive looting at Mec.

He said apparently Mec had defended itself over the audit queries and that the auditors and the government could not challenge the query responses provided by Mec.

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