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Stakeholders meet over Mec woes

Various stakeholders are meeting in Lilongwe Tuesday to discuss several issues of national importance with financial challenges that have rocked the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) on the agenda.

Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe and Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu are expected to lead the government delegation during the meeting.

Donors, Malawi Electoral Support Network (Mesn), Mec officials, the police, army representatives and National Registration Bureau officials are part of the meeting which will also discuss the much-awaited national registration programme, the ambitious electoral reforms process, constituency boundary demarcation exercise and an almost neglected constitutional review of 2007.

In an interview yesterday, Gondwe said government has not made any decision to bail out Mec from the current financial woes but hinted that there are high chances that further investigations will be launched to establish how the funds were used at the electoral body.

Mec sought the intervention of the treasury for a bailout package due to several outstanding debts with several suppliers mostly emanating from 2014 tripartite elections

“There are a number of things that we will discuss but one of them is the possibility of a commission of inquiry. What is the issue, what have we done and what have we missed? All those issues will have to be established by the commission [of inquiry]. There are a number of stakeholders including donors who are interested in getting information on what really is happening and we need to come together and see what we can do,” Gondwe said.

He said the government and some stakeholders are contemplating to bring some experts in fiscal issues including some auditing firms and individuals to establish the truth.

“We think as government and Mec we can’t reach a decision on this matter on our own. That’s why we have decided to involve the auditors, donors and other electoral stakeholders so that we can sit down and discuss the way forward,” he said.

The audit which the Central Internal Audit Unit of the Ministry of Finance conducted between April 27 and May 15 last year revealed abuse of funds at Mec.

It is suspected over K1.3 billion was not accounted for during the auditing process.

A summary of the findings noted that Mec management ignored legal and regulatory guidelines as provided in the Public Finance Management Act, Public Procurement Act and Malawi Public Service regulations and maintained incomplete accounting records due to inexperienced accounting personnel in public accounting system.

The audit also said Mec was maintaining numerous and unnecessary bank accounts, the reconciliation of which was not reliable because of lack of proper maintenance of cashbooks and other accounting methods.

The audit report forced Mec to make the documents and records that constitute its responses to the audit, public with an argument that the report did not incorporate electoral body’s responses.

Recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said loss of equipment towards settling debts at Mec is a grave concern and cannot only undermine development partners’ confidence in providing equipment in the future but also the electoral body’s capacity to deliver on its mandate.

Reacting to the last month’s sheriffs’ auctioning of six vehicles belonging to the electoral body and overall state of outstanding debts at the body, UNDP Resident Representative Mia Seppo said the outstanding debts also erode the Mec’s credibility with suppliers.

Mesn chairperson Steve Duwa described the whole situation as embarrassing to the electoral body saying it is unfortunate that the solution to the financial problems is nowhere to be seen.

Meanwhile, Mec obtained stay order which prevented the sheriffs from selling the impounded and auctioned vehicles.

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