In an attempt of clarifying issues that the country’s electoral body claims were “grossly misrepresented” in a local newspaper article titled ‘Audit Reveals Abuse at MEC’, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has in a way agreed that its Commissioners collected allowances for trips that did not take place when the allowances were pocketed.
The said article based on facts presented in a draft report by the National Audit Office (NAO) claimed that some Commissioners took allowances for trips not made, and that MEC says that when the Commissioners came into office, they were scheduled to go on study visits to Kenya and South Africa along with some members of staff.
“But the trips were cancelled due to other circumstances after allowances had already been paid,” reads the statement in part signed by MEC Willie Kalonga Chief Elections Officer.
But Kalonga explains: “It was arranged that when the trips would be rescheduled the Commissioners and staff would use the same allowances and only get a difference if need be.”
When the trips were rescheduled, MEC says that Commissioner Dr. Bernard Malango and Ms Nkovole who were supposed to go to Kenya went to Zambia from 7 to 13 April, 2013.
“Also in the team to Zambia were Commissioners Dr. Wellington Nakanga, Commissioner Mrs. Nancy Tembo, former Commissioner Dr. Bertha Simwaka and Mr. Harris Potani. Commissioner Mrs. Elvey Mtafu who was supposed to travel to South Africa took the trip from 24 to 30th September 2012 to the same country.”
MEC claims that an explanation was made to the auditors and it was dropped in subsequent draft audit report that NAO provided to MEC.
On an allegation that other Commissioners and staff did not provide their passports for verification during the exercise, MEC says it is not true as the passports were provided, saying the issue was also dropped after the explanation.
On failure to account for nomination fees, the statement says that the 2009 nomination fees were received at Council level and that some Councils did not bring all the documentation when remitting their reports to the Commission.
“The auditors from the National Audit Office (NAO) were given all the resources to go and verify in the councils and up to date MEC is waiting for their report on what they found out,” MEC chief elections officer.
He added: “As a matter of fact, the analysis of the nomination fees from the districts, assumed that all nomination fees were paid at the districts.”
MEC has revealed that Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidates were paid for by Bineth Trust as a lump sum and their nomination fees could not therefore have come from the districts.
The auditors also raised an issue on the refund of K19.1 million which MEC gave to Bineth Trust for the candidates who competed on the ticket of the DPP.
“MEC clarified to them that the party paid K19.2 million for all its candidates through the Trust and that is why a refund for the candidates who qualified had to be made to the Trust,” the statement adds.
Though conceding that the media appreciates the role plays in promoting transparency and accountability, MEC strikes; “MEC 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.”
To NAO, MEC offers a free advice: “The Commission also expects auditors to conduct themselves in a manner that does not erode the confidence clients have in them”.
The NAO report is said to have indicated that a total of 55 audit queries totaling roughly to K1 billion were unaccounted for the period 2008 to 2012 thereby raising fears that the money might have been abused.
In the statement, Kalonga says the Commission is committed to financial diligence and further urges those who might wish to seek clarification to contact him.
“With the experience MEC had been through, the current Commission embarked on initiatives to strengthen internal financial controls and corporate governance,” reads the statement.
MEC has said that it has 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, 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,” said Kalonga.
The report is said to have indicated that a total of 55 audit queries totaling roughly to K1 billion were unaccounted for the period 2008 to 2012 thereby raising fears that the money might have been abused.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :