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Parliament warns government on Mec budget cut

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Parliament has warned the government that cutting the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) budget by 57 percent would greatly compromise the 2019 Tripartite Elections and by-elections this year.

Lilian Patel, Chairperson of parliamentary cluster nine comprising members from committees of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises, Government Assurances and Public Appointments, made the plea on Tuesday afternoon in the National Assembly when she presented a cluster report.

“The proposed budget for Mec for the 2017/18 [fiscal year] was K19.6 billion. The Treasury has revised the budget to K9.4 billion. The total budget for the general elections between 2017 and 2019 is K41.97 billion.

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“The ceiling for the general elections and by-elections is at K6.8 billion. This represents 57 percent shortfall of the required amount. This amount will affect the approved calendar for the electoral process,” Patel said.

She said the government should respect the budget figures as presented by Mec, saying this would enable the electoral body to implement all the planned activities uninterrupted.

Patel, therefore, asked the government to consider providing K14 billion as required for the 2017/18 fiscal year in order to complete preparatory activities and commence voter registration exercise as planned.

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She further requested Mec to ensure it has systems which would attract some donors to support some activities.

“Financial abuse and lack of proper systems at Mec has scared most donors. They need proper systems in place,” she said.

The Mangochi South legislator also said Mec should work together with the National Statistical Office on population projections, saying the office has reliable projections which can be used for constituency demarcation.

Patel accused Mec of failing to demarcate constituencies as required by law, saying the electoral body is not taking the issue seriously although it had received funding for the exercise in the 2016/17 annual budget.

“Mec should stop violating the Republican Constitution by not abiding by what is provided for in Section 76 of the Constitution. Demarcation of constituencies should be given a priority every five years,” she said.

She also said accounting systems should urgently be restored at Mec as a way of trying to win back donor confidence and support.

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