There is more to the rot at Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) as Nyasa Times still continue to publishing its exposé on the “management fraud” at the electoral body according to a final audit report. It has been established that the management were involved in expenses scandal by claiming dubious allowances.
Analysing the audit report which covers July 2012 to December 2014, Nyasa Times highlights personal wrongdoing of top officials in claiming the expenses.
MEC chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera, according to the audit findings, claimed a loan for housing and furniture to the tune of K8, 219,067 which was made up of payments to Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) at K1, 155,000 and payment to MASR furniture at K5, 390, 000.
There was also a payment for a house constructions works but disguised as a furniture loan directly paid to Durobloc Construction at K1, 031,066.94.
Further payments for Mbendera were made to GAME Stores for gymnastics equipment amounting to K533, 500 and K109, 500 for a three months TV subscription to Multichoice Malawi
The report also fingers chief elections officer Willie who collected an emergency allowance of K2, 083,219 made up of personal loan when going to Arusha, Tanzania costing K446, 219.40) and emergency advance of K1, 500,000.
Others commissioners were named in collecting questionable emergency allowances. They included Dr Wellington Nakanga (K1, 400,000), Stanly Billiati (K250, 000), Rev. Mezuwa Banda (K700, 000), Elby Kalonga Mtafu (K1, 800,000), Rev Emmanuel Chimkwita Phiri – (K500, 000) and Thandi Nkovole (K1, 000,000).
Others in emergency loans scandal include Ayanja Kumitengo, the secretary to chief elections officer (K500, 000), G. Sikwese (K20, 000).
The MEC advances account for loans had been drawn K25, 000,000.
The report says the honoraria for Commissioners and staff salaries were paid from Accountant General.
The chairman’s secretary wrote a an internal memo on 27th August 2014 stating: “His Lordship would like to surrender the K6 million gratuity at the end of term of office to clear the debt and the balance of K2,109,566.94 be cleared within 24 months effective October 2014.”
Gratuity is only paid after successful completion on the contract period. It is therefore observed to be wrong to surrender a gratuity to clear the loan while the contract period has not come to an end.
The Malawi Public Service Regulations stipulate public relevant authority may grant loans to employees in respect of education, emergency, bicycle, motor vehicle and general purpose fund.
Special funds must be identified and put into an official loan revolving fund account from which personal loans should be paid.
However, the audit findings revealed that personal loans were paid out of elections operational funds “with no evidence of repayment” therefore defrauded the public.
MEC management response to the query was that “they considered as another way of investing the idle funds for the transfer to MEC staff private loans account.”
Management also blamed the practice on pressure from politicians they work with.
“However, we sometimes pay loans from operating funds due to pressure from politicians we work with,” MEC responded to the audit query.
Meanwhile, MEC spokesman Sangwani Mwafulira had advised the commission to have a news conference to spin on the contents of the investigative audit.
In an internal email to the commissioners, seen by Nyasa Times, Mwafulirwa writes: “We will have a marathon of articles from this audit report. My suggestion is that we to hold a big press briefing may be by the MEC chairman, where all these issues will be clarified.
“It would be good if it is recorded and rebroadcast on radio or TV. If we have a press briefing we
will have our stance heard and communicated to all stakeholders.”