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Mec speaks on K4 billion cheque

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By Jameson Chauluka:

Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) has maintained that its bank account named Chief Elections Officer (CEO) is among the commission’s legitimate accounts and that Treasury approved that it be opened in 2014.

Mec CEO Sam Alfandika gave an exclusive interview to The Daily Times on the matter after the paper carried a story on Monday titled ‘Govt sent K4bn into Mec CEO Account’ Monday.

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In the story, The Daily Times highlighted that the government deposited K4 billion into the account named Chief Elections Officer and that other electoral stakeholders were uncomfortable with such a name, saying it was against principles of corporate governance and the timing of the deposit on the eve of the May 21 Tripartite Elections.

During the interview, Alfandika said the account was opened to facilitate electoral processes following an approval from the then secretary to Treasury, Newby Kumwembe, in the wake of a ban on over-the-counter encashments of the government cheques of over K500, 000.

“I have approved that you open an operating current account with a bank of your choice in the name of Chief Elections Officer. Only those special payments that require to be cashed over the counter should first be processed through Ifmis payable to Chief Elections Officer,” reads the letter signed by Kumwembe dated March 24 2014.

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Alfandika said the account could not have been named otherwise because the letter from Treasury indicates that name.

However, stakeholders expressed concerns over the name in 2014 but Mec did not address them.

In the interview, however, Alfandika said Treasury deposits money into the commission’s Ifmis account which every government ministry and department has with the Reserve Bank of Malawi.

He said the money is then sent into any of about four accounts which the commission has, including the one named Chief Elections Officer, upon request from the Accountant General domiciled at the Southern Region Cashier.

“On top of the Chief Elections Officer account, we have other accounts such as the Presidential and Parliamentary Account, Local Government Account and Operations Account whose signatories are the Chairperson, Justice Dr Jane Ansah, Commissioner Linda Kunje, myself, Mr Phanuel Hamsini, Mr Khumbo Phiri, Mr Duncan Jumbe and Madam Sheila Kamanga,” he said.

Alfandika confirmed that the commission received the K4 billion through the account named Chief Elections Officer on May 20 ahead of the May 21 tripartite elections, saying the money was to be used for polling activities including paying field staff.

He said, in March, the commission also transferred K8.5 billion from its Ifmis account to the same account, adding that the commission was in the process of transferring another K1.2 billion into the same account.

Ministry of Finance spokesperson, Davis Sado, said he did not have information on whether other government ministries and departments have accounts named after designations of officials, promising to come back with the information after consulting relevant authorities.

In a statement released later in the day, Mec spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said all the accounts are audited by the Auditor General in line with the government systems.

But asked on how often the office of the Auditor General meets such accounts in their work, the Auditor General’s spokesperson Rabson Kagwamminga referred The Daily Times to Sado.

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