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Treasury mum on Malawi Electoral Commission’s fate

The Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) will have to wait a little longer before it hears from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning despite presenting its responses to the audit queries by internal auditors that it misappropriated over K1.5 billion meant for the 2014 Tripartite Elections (TPE).

Treasury, through its Secretary Ronald Mangani, decided to keep a tight lid on its next course of action one month after Mec decided to avail to the public its documents and records in response to the audit report due to the delay by Treasury to grant it an audience with the auditors.

Responding to an emailed questionnaire over the weekend, Mangani said his office explained its stand to Mec and that there is no new development in accordance to the electoral body’s demands.

“We have explained our stand on this matter adequately, and I do not think there is any more new information that we would like to provide at this point,” said Mangani on Friday without giving any more details.

But Finance Ministry’s spokesperson, Nations Msowoya, said in a telephone interview that concerned authorities should be going through the Commission’s responses and necessary action will follow.

“Since Mec presented its documents in defense to the queries, then the auditors should be going through them, at an appropriate time they will respond accordingly,” Msowoya said.

When asked on when they think the auditors will be ready to meet Mec officials on the matter, both Mangani and Msowoya failed give a specific date or timeframe.

However, Mec Director of Communication and Public Relations, Sangwani Mwafulirwa, decried the delay, saying they are eagerly waiting to meet the auditors in order to be exonerated by the final report.

He said there is need to pay attention and handle the matter with urgency due to the public interest surrounding it and the gravity of the alleged abuses of public funds.

“No one would be interested to have such an investigative audit report inconclusive indefinitely. We want and are waiting for a date to be set where Mec will meet the auditors to discuss the responses with a possibility of dropping them in the final report because of the evidence submitted,” explained Mwafulirwa.

On November 24, the Commission through Chairperson Maxon Mbendera went public and accused Treasury of witch-hunting by leaking the audit report which did not include the Commission’s responses despite Chief Secretary to Government George Mkondiwa recommending that the final report should also comprise Mec’s side of the story.

An audit exercise between April 27 and May 15, 2015 revealed an alleged extensive abuse of funds by Mec’s top management through unauthorized expenditures and procurements among other ways.

For instance, the Commission is alleged to have irregularly paid duty amounting to about K5 million for boarded off vehicles which were offered and bought by Mbendera and Chief Elections Officer Willie Kalonga, apart from unaccounted for external trips.

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