Traditional donors for Adventist Development Relief Agency (Adra) Malawi have suspended funding to the organisation sighting gross mismanagement of funds; lack of adherence to laid down procedures and protocols as well as pure incompetence on the part of current Acting Director (AD), Hastings Jabulani Lacha under the board chairmanship of Pastor Frackson Kuyama as some of the reasons for their decision.
According to an ‘External Review of Aspects of ADRA Malawi Operations’, which was undertaken in November 2019 by ADRA Africa, the management of Lacha has pushed ADRA Malawi to its weakest point in many years.
The review has recommended that Latcha’s contract as well as that of Financial Director (FD), Rexia Lipunga, should be allowed to expire and must not be renewed, and that a forensic audit be conducted by an independent audit firm based on the terms of reference that were developed in partnership with ADRA Africa.
Among other things the review, which was carried out by Dibden Chileya; Heidi Straw Camargo and Samuel Oyortey from ADRA Africa at the request of ADRA Australia; ADRA Denmark and ADRA Sweden, accused the organisation’s management of lacking financial discipline; non-adherence to best corporate governance practices and general incompetence.
“Although conducting an audit, or investigating irregular financial transactions was not part of the scope of this review, we uncovered multiple questionable activities in this area during our work,” read the report.
It adds that among some of the questionable transactions were irregularities around covering the costs and sourcing the materials for the 30th Anniversary celebrations; transferring of funds from a project that was closing at the end of June into an admin fund to pay for a staff retreat at the end of the year; single-sourcing a generator from the UK through a Hope Channel producer in a questionable manner, and weaknesses in keeping records of the board finance committee.
The report accuses Latcha of turning ADRA Malawi into some kind of personal fiefdom where he can do as he pleases, and often bypassing ADCOM in his decision making.
ADFCOM or Administration Committee (ADCOM) is the main administration committee tasked with deliberating and making key administration decisions for the organisation.
He is also faulted for favouritism and for systematically cleansing the organisation of all non-Seventh Day Adventist employees, which is against its hiring policy. This is evidenced by the removal of some key non Adventist staff such as Francis Zande, a darling of Australia; Edson Gunsaru, a darling of Denmark, who was removed from the Tikuferanji Production and Neema Kachali, Procurement and Logistics Manager who was not moved from her position only on matters of policy on procurement.
Reads the report in part: “By placing and removing persons at will, the role of the board and the confidence that can be placed in the deliberativeness and independence of ADCOM is undermined. It also created the appearance that the Acting Country Director was trying to ‘stack’ the membership with people who he felt were favourable to him and would let him do what he wanted.”
Other accusations for the Country Director (CD) border on unilateralism in decision making; personalising issues and the creation of silos of loyal staff members across departments.
A good example of this is the decision to relocate the headquarters of the organisation to Lilongwe.
“For such a momentous decision, the best practice would have been for ADCOM members to be engaged for a discussion over a period of time. Instead, information was given to ADCOM members that with effect from 1st January 2020 the ADRA head office will be relocating to Lilongwe from Blantyre, and yet the ADCOM TORs are explicit that the decision to relocate the office is a board level decision and that ADCOM can at most only recommend,” reads the report in part.
The report said Lacha generally developed a negative attitude towards the Tikufelanji TV program, which fell under the Denmark funded project Action for Social Change (AfSC), because it was highly identified with former Acting CD, Micheal Usi.
“The first was that a key staff member, Mass Media Technician Edson Gunsalu was verbally suspended in late April and then the Acting CD declared that his primary duty of producing the television show was removed until further notice,” said the report.
It said Lacha proceeded to switch the distribution channel for the program from Times Television to HOPE Channel without plausible justification, and without consultation with the organisation’s ADCOM.
“The decision of changing the contract from Times TV to Hope Channel does not directly appear as a minute within ADCOM. The details of the contract and any mention of discussions, or a report, or analysis being presented are not mentioned. There is also no record of ADCOM having approved the decision in a vote,” said the report.
The report also alleges that Lacha has a bad and untamed temper, which is always flaunted un-relentlessly against staff members and often times in public. This anger was even witnessed by the team which conducted the review last year.
“Hastings was feeling very threatened and that his credibility was being questioned. He is very unpredictable, and his reactions are very strong. He was very angry, and it was like ‘oh my goodness.’ The outright anger and frustration was ‘red-hot.’ We were worried for the office staff,” one team member is quoted to have confessed in the report.
“The Acting CD would take actions to confront or discipline staff without following the proscribed procedures. The situations of the FFH project staff, the media producer of AFSC project and the Logistics Manager are examples of this,” read part of the report adding that this is the type of attitude by Lacha which contributed to the creation of an unfavourable working environment at ADRA, including the resignation of a hardworking and vastly experienced Program Director (PD), Andiyesa Mhango on December 31, 2019.
The report also faulted board chair, Pastor Kuyama for contributing to the general deterioration of staff morale at the organisation in complicit with Latcha and other board members. It accused kuyama of lacking transparency and of not sharing some key information with members such as the information the resignation of Program Director and the decision to relocate the organisation’s head office to Lilongwe.
Pastor Kuyama, who is the head of Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) in Malawi, has also been accused of not declaring conflict of interest and of influencing the removal of qualified and experienced Nutrition Officer, Mercy Chakoma, from a project, and replacing her with his daughter, Pempho Kuyama, a position which she was not qualified for.
Reads part of the report: “The most noticeable of these was the employment of the board chair’s daughter under questionable circumstances and the way this conflict was not disclosed as required. Pempho Kuyama was named as the Gender Officer, but later the Acting CD said she was coming as the Nutrition Officer.”
The review generally found Kuyama’s leadership as chair of ADRA to be very weak and not helpful to the achievement of a strong organisation which is trusted by its stakeholders.
“In ADRA Malawi, the review team found an organization with new or acting leaders in the three key director positions of Country Director (CD), Programs Director (PD) and Finance Director (FD). Both our review, and interestingly the organizational analysis conducted during their strategic planning this year, found crucial gaps in systems, as well as a staff divided.
“It is our conclusion that, after this acting period of one year, the Acting CD and Acting FD do not show reason to believe that they are the correct persons to resolve these, and in some cases are the sources of it,” the report said.
Among some of the recommendations by the review team are that ADRA must identify a strong Country Director with substantial experience with other ADRA country offices, and one who understands ADRA systems.
“… The person should be calm, inclusive and consensus building and committed to helping the staffs reunify as a team. The person should have a track record of working successfully with the SDA church and be clear on how an ADRA office can best do that, while maintaining its proper role and independence. The person should have strong knowledge especially in the area of financial systems. The office needs new, diversified funding; as well as relationships with current donors needs to be repaired,” concludes the report.
ADRA Malawi has been in Malawi for 30 years, although it started its activities in 1982. Over the years, the organisation has implemented various projects, in the areas of Emergency Management & Resilience, Food Security and Livelihood, Education and Health and Advocacy and Communication for Social Change (CFSC).
The organisation has pioneered several advocacy programs including an award-winning radio program and a television show called ‘Tikuferanji’ which addressed issues of human rights, gender and democracy, among others.
The review of ADRA was carried out due to pressure from the laity of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which is one of the key stakeholders in the organisation with substantial interest. It followed pressure to investigate financial improprieties last year at the South Malawi Conference which revealed gross financial mismanagement leading to the suspension from office of the Executive Secretary, Patriarch Jb. Chaluchalu January 14, 2020.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :