Commissioners at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) have denied being party to anomalies raised in a draft report by the National Audit Office as reported in the press.
“The current Commission would like to state categorically that it is not answerable for issues arising from management of the 2009 elections. The current Commissioners were appointed on May 19, 2012 with the Chairman joining them on 9th October, 2012,” reads a statementsigned by MEC chief elections officer Willie Kalonga.
MEC has also claimed that there is a gross misrepresentation of facts the audit report that indicated that a total of 55 audit queries totaling roughly K1 billion were unaccounted for in the period 2008 to 2012 which raised fears that the money might have been abused.
It argues that the gaps came about due to the fact that some documents could not be made available to the auditors claiming they had been mishandled by agents of the state namely the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Fiscal Police when they were investigating reports of suspected fraud on MEC finance staff in 2009 that saw members of staff who were arraigned discharged by the “competent” court of law.
“The Commission is of the view that the audit issues are not an issue of fraud but just unavailability of accounting records due to reasons already stated. The very same reasons that documents could not be found because they were mishandled are the same why it was not possible to present them to the NAO auditors,” the statement signed by Kalonga on June 25 2015 explains.
The chief elections officer further argues that the issues raised in the report and subsequently in the press were responded to and that the documentation and explanations supporting transactions that are alleged to be missing were provided.
“To that effect there shouldn’t be an issue raising allegations of financial mismanagement at the Commission,”he contends.
The commission has since pleaded with the media and auditors to be responsible and uphold the trust required of them.
“The Commission appreciates the role played by the media in promoting transparency and accountability but at the same time it expects the media and other professionals to be responsible. Issues raised in a preliminary audit report are not for public consumption until the final report, which is a public document, is out.
“The Commission also expects auditors to conduct themselves in a manner that does not erode the confidence clients have in them,” writes Kalonga in the statement MEC released Friday June 26, 2015.
The commission was however quick to point out that since the institution has perpetual succession, the secretariat remains responsible hence taking e trouble to make the clarifications.
MEC claims that when the current Commissioners were appointed, MEC had just gone through two audits; the first one was by PriceWaterHouseCoopers (PWC) in 2010 where it showed K1, 585,033,030.02 was not accounted for.
Following these revelations, the Bingu wa Mutharika government shut down the MEC and instituted a forensic audit from December 2010 to April 2011 in order to come to the bottom of the unaccounted for funds.
The audit was carried out by KPMG and managed to reconcile about K1.1 billion of the K1.5 billion mentioned in the earlier audit report but the remaining K467 million could not be reconciled because the documents could not be traced.
Kalonga says that when the current Commission was appointed, it directed the internal audit department of the Commission to carry out further reconciliations of the amount unaccounted for in the forensic audit and managed to authenticate a further K106 million of the K467 million previously stated as unaccounted for.
MEC however claims that the exercise could not continue just because the Commission had started activities leading to the 2014 tripartite elections.
But basing on the experience MEC had been through, the current Commission claims to have embarked on initiatives to strengthen internal financial controls and corporate governance that include engaging external auditors.
“So far it has managed to set up an internal audit department headed by a director with five full time staff, set up an Audit Committee headed by a Commissioner to which the Internal Audit Department reports and initiate audits by private firms.
“Apart from audits by the National Audit Office, the Commission is audited by a private firm, Deloitte. It is anticipated that in December Deloitte will be conducting audit for 2014/2015 financial year. The purpose is that queries arising should be answerable by the responsible persons,”Kalonga explains.
In the argued article, the commissioners were also accused of collecting travel allowances for trips not undertaken. There were also issues to do with postponement of by-elections and failure to account for nomination fees.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :