The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has described as malicious the release of an audit report by the Central Internal Audit of the Ministry of Finance before incorporating responses from the Commission on alleged abuse of public funds.
The report, which was released on August 27, 2015, claimed that the electoral body’s top management abused taxpayers’ money through unauthorized expenditures and procurements.
In a press statement signed by Chairperson, Maxon Mbendera, the Commission argues that failure by the Treasury to revise the report accordingly after advice and recommendation by Mec management and Chief Secretary to Government, George Mkondiwa, risks victimising innocent persons who can be exonerated by an accepted final audit report.
Mbendera says the development has since compelled the Commission to avail to the public its documents and records that constitute its responses to the issues raised in the report which he says lack credibility.
“On August 14, 2015, the Mec brought it to the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury on the omission and requested for the report to be revised. It was [amazing] to Mec to get a letter from the Secretary to the Treasury six weeks later on September 28, 2015 with the same report as a final version with an urge to the Commission to take action,” reads the statement in part released on November 24, 2015.
The statement also expresses Mec’s concern that the leakage of the erroneous document, which attracted wide media coverage and public interest, further put the electoral body in an awkward situation since it called for refunds from concerned individuals who have not been proven guilty of the offenses.
Further annoying to the Commission is failure by the Treasury to grant Mec management an audience with the auditors to go through the responses which it says were compiled to substantiate or dispel alleged audit queries which are said to have led to the plunder of resources at the electoral institution.
“The Commission took a stand not to defend itself on material detail of the audit report with the impression that the final audit report [would] serve the purpose, but due to the leakage of the document, the Center for Multiparty for Democracy [CMD] and National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) opined that the Commission should address the information gap created by leakage of the draft and delay in finalising the report,” says Mbendera in the statement.
Meanwhile, Mec has stuck its guns that it will not, for instance, request people mentioned in the report to refund the allowances they got when there is full evidence that they did travel, saying there is need to exercise caution when dealing with the matter.
But when asked why the Treasury is not responding to Mec’s call for a meeting with the auditors, Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Nations Msowoya, said in an interview on Saturday that the Commission is deliberately shying away from facing the auditors by knocking on the wrong doors in the Treasury.
“The Commission knows who to deal with; it’s the internal auditors of the Treasury who have issues with it, and they do not expect Treasury management to be arranging meetings for them with responsible officers,” said Msowoya.
“It is not unusual to you and me that when someone is guilty they will say anything to vindicate themselves or let alone play monkey tricks,” he added.
Reacting to Msowoya’s response, Mec Director of Communication and Public Relations, Sangwani Mwafulirwa, said the Commission is justified to take Treasury to task because it was Secretary to Treasury who signed the letter which the auditors presented to Mec before embarking on the audit exercise between April 27 and May 15, 2015.
Among other things, the audit report queries Mec on excessive travel costs which were not provided for in the 2014 tripartite elections’ budget which cost up to over K205 million.
According to the report, Mbendera, commissioners Mezuwa Banda and Nancy Tembo allegedly made 36 external trips in total, all of which were not accounted for between September 2012 and October 2014.
On the other hand, Mec Chief Elections Officer, Willie Kalonga, is alleged to have paid himself over K2 million for a private trip to his graduation ceremony without the approval of the Commission and that management committed itself to a bill of over K7 million in hiring vehicles for Kalonga after his official vehicle was involved in a road accident without a written arrangement with the insurance company.
Additionally, the Commission is faulted for incurring expenses in excess of K64 million on borrowing of lamps and tents from Zimbabwe for the 2014 elections which auditors claim did not add any significant value to the polls.
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