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Members of Parliament grill Goodall over postponed polls

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Members of Parliament Tuesday took to task Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Goodall Gondwe, to justify the postponement of by-elections in some wards and constituencies scheduled for June 6 2017.

The elections were expected to be held in Lilongwe Msozi North and Lilongwe City South East constituencies as well as in Mayani Ward in Dedza and Mtsiliza Ward in Lilongwe, but Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) Chairperson Jane Ansah announced the postponement on the day the elections were supposed to be launched.

Lilongwe North East MP Maxwell Thyolera, who raised the question under Standing Order 69, said he was suspicious with the manner in which the elections were postponed.

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He said it was surprising that the elections were postponed due to funding, yet out of K1 billion that was allocated for by-elections in 2016/2017 financial year, about K500 million was used for by-election that were conducted in November last year.

“This means we have over K500 million as a balance. And it is on record that the chairperson of Mec told a National Elections Consultative Forum that they received funding and that is why they released the programme that the elections would be held on 6 June 2017. She also went further to say if the elections are not held on the set date, the funds would go back to the Treasury. We wonder as to why the funds that were already allocated to Mec have been withdrawn,” Thyolera said.

But when responding to the question, Gondwe said Mec used the K500 million which Thyolera was talking about for others purposes.

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He also said at this stage of the financial year, the government is more careful when using resources outside the budget.

“The Treasury is barred by the Constitution, by the way, from using resources on extra-budgetary stance. During the last part of the year, we particularly have to be very careful on how to use such resources,” Gondwe said.

He added: “The members have suggested that we ought to have had some money. Unfortunately, we did not because the K1 billion that was allocated was used for something else by the Electoral Commission. We couldn’t use resources outside the budget.”

But Leader of Opposition, Lazarus Chakwera, faulted the manner in which the issue of postponement of the polls was communicated to stakeholders.

“You cannot have a chairperson of a commission that needs to run the elections, be a spokesperson for government, to say there is no money, there is no this. Why does this House pass laws to take care of emergencies and eventualities of this nature? You cannot say you have over-collected in terms of MRA [Malawi Revenue Authority] and then say there are no funds. They should have found K300 million and do the elections as my understanding of the Constitution requires. Period!” Chakwera said.

Acting Leader of People’s Party Uladi Mussa, accused the Democratic Progressive Party government of having the tendency of postponing elections when they have information that they are going to lose.

“They stopped by-elections in Salima North West for two years or three years. Once they get information that they are not going to win, they delay things. I think the Constitution should be changed so that the party that wins a seat in a general election should maintain the position to the end. The party should just choose another person to represent the people,” Mussa said.

But Gondwe insisted that the reasons for postponing the elections were financial, saying he would inform relevant stakeholders when the government is ready with the funds for the elections.

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