The Civil Society in Malawi are demanding that President Lazarus Chakwera should urgently dismiss all Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) board members for extravagance and abuse of public funds.
The people rights group says President Chakwera must act swiftly to boot out the MACRA board and stop ‘babysitting’ them.
Macra board of directors are reported to have blown over K46 million for attending an unjustified two-week orientation workshop in Dubai.
However, President Chakwera said on Friday that the board of Macra needs to change immediately.
Said Chakwera: “It is saddening that the board Chairperson of Macra could not find a cost-effective way of enhancing the capacity of the board than taking them to Dubai and blowing millions of kwacha.
Chakwera made the remarks at the launch of the second phase of national backbone fibre at Crossroads Hotel in the capital Lilongwe.
Centre for Public Transparency (CPT) Executive director Paul Mhango says President must fire the board members at MACRA and not ask them for change.
“For the president to ask a bunch of inconsiderate public money squanderers is a joke. These people blew K46 million of taxpayers’ money and the head of state can do about it is but to ask them to change?” queried Mhango.
Mhango said, this is the problem of appointing people just to appease them and not because they are they are right people in the fist place.
“President Chakwera has the powers to replace the board members with people who have Malawi at heart but he would not dismiss them because these were appointed in the board as reward.
“We are asking the president to dissolve the MACRA board with immediate effect because they abused their powers and authority.”
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC chairperson Gift Trapence in an interview Friday said his organisation’s position on MACRA’s board is as clear as daylight.
“There is no two ways about it President Chakwera appointed the MACRA board members and all we asking him is very simple.
“He must replace the current extravagant board of directors with people that have willing to serve Malawians unlike the current board, which is bent on personal gains and self-aggrandisement.
A few days ago HRDC issued a statement demanding that the MACRA board be dissolved as soon as possible.
“In the best interest of Malawians, we call on President Lazarus Chakwera to immediately dissolve the Macra Board and have people that are willing to serve Malawians and not the current Board that is bent on personal interests and self-enrichment,” read in part a statement signed by HRDC national chairperson Gift Trapence and HRDC national coordinator, Luke Tembo.
In the statement, HRDC says they have learnt with great shock of the extravagance and abuse by the board of directors of the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority, went to Dubai for a two-week governance training at a time when Malawi’s economy is bleeding.
“To say the least, with this development, the current MACRA Board does not inspire confidence at all and leaves a lot to be desired. Instead of being gatekeepers, they have demonstrated selfish, unreasonable and careless tendencies.
“How does a board that has been hired to clean the rubble at an organisation that was infested with corruption, nepotism and politicking be the first to go astray?
“What message is the board sending to Malawians. Is this not a sign that the Board has already been captured by management?” queries HRDC in the statement.
HRDC also questions Macra board of directors’ rationale on how the management sent the board for training even before the recruited a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and top management.
“Is the Board really in charge? Is this not an inducement? Does this board have the interest of poor Malawians at heart?” further reads the statement.
HRDC said that it is astounding is that Macra board of directors decided to go on a trip to Dubai for merrymaking amidst the #datamustfall campaign—in which Malawians are crying in order for MACRA to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to lower data rates.
“This trip clearly shows that Board’s priorities are lopsided and they are there to serve their self-interests,” adds the statement.
Rights activists and economic experts have since described the move as wasteful, unjustified and abuse of resources.
Nyasa Times investigations indicate that five board members and two management officers travelled to Dubai for training on corporate governance and regulatory masterclass on Information Communication and Technology (ICT) at Pinnacle Training Institute.
It is established that every Macra board member is entitled an external travel allowance of US$480 per day, which is equivalent to K386,400 at the exchange rate of K805 to a US dollar – and this means that for the two week period, each board member pocketed not less than K5,409,600.
In total, all the five board members got not less than K27, 048,000
Expenditure for air tickets for all the five was about K7.5 million as each air ticket cost about K1.5 million and on calculations, it shows that Macra spent about K34,548,000 for the board’s allowances and air tickets.
Nyasa Times established that in total, the institution spent around K46,282,250.
Macra Communications Officer, Clara Ngwira, confirmed and justified the board training in Dubai, which she said was already budgeted for in Macra’s 2020/2021 annual budget.
“It is part of capacity building for our board members as most of them are new to ICT regulation.
“We locally conducted training on Macra overview and ICT regulation after their appointment and this time the training is on corporate governance and regulatory master class on ICT,” Ngwira said in an interview.
She also disclosed that each board member collected an allowance of US$480 dollars per day for two weeks and about K1.5 million each for the air ticket.
Justifying the training in Dubai, Ngwira said: “Management considered various options on the training and settled for and save money.
Information minister, Gospel Kazako said Friday in a separate interview that the trip was expensive and advised the board to think twice but his word was ignored.
“This is well recorded and minuted. If we need to change things in this country we must do things differently. The President has sent a strong message on this,” said Kazako.
President Lazarus Chakwera in his Friday speech said he received a report on the matter from Kazako and he was dismayed with the board’s decision.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :