HRDC demands firing of ‘self-serving’ MACRA board

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) board, which has infuriated Malawians for reportedly spending over K40 million for an internal meeting held away in Dubai, should be “immediately dissolved”, militant rights group, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), has demanded.

In a statement made available on Sunday, HRDC said the MACRA board members’ trip has proved that their priorities were “self-serving.”

HRDC Trapence and Luke Tembo: Macra board must be fired

“The HRDC urges Chakwera to look for and appoint people that are willing to serve citizens and not the current Board that is bent on personal interests,” partly reads the statement signed by HRDC chairperson, Gift Trapence, and national coordinator, Luke Tembo.

It said the “extravagance and abuse” by the MACRA board was quite unfortunate coming at a time when Malawi’s economy was sinking beneath soaring fuel and basic commodities, and rising unemployment.

“The president [Chakwera] should dissolve the MACRA board. He promised to clear the rubble, and there is the rubble at MACRA that needs clearing.

“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,” Trapence said in an interview with ZBS, on Sunday evening, after the statement had been issued.

‘Careless Spending’

Malawi news exposed the five board members and two management officers who travelled to Dubai for a two-week training on corporate governance and regulatory masterclass on Information Communication and Technology at Pinnacle Training Institute (PTI).

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 dollar).

“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. Our calculations show that Macra spent about K34,548,000 for the board’s allowances and air tickets,” the weekly paper reported on Saturday.

Two management officers, a legal counsel and an economist who accompanied the board, got daily allowances of US$400 and US$375, translating into K322,000 and K301,875 respectively; meaning that for the 14 days, the legal counsel got K4,508,000 while the economist got K4,226,250.

In total, the institution spent about K3 million on air tickets for the two managers and about K8,734,250 on allowances.

Total allowances for the board members and the two management officers come to around K46,282,250, the paper said.

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.

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 as well as confirming that two management officers accompanied the board.

But Milward Tobias, Director for Centre for Research and Consultancy, said sending board of directors for training demeans the board members, and reflects that management could be noticing deficiency in their skills.

“Further and more dangerously, sending a board of directors for training reflects badly on the President as the appointing authority. In essence, Macra is saying the President appointed people whose capacity needs beefing up,” Tobias said.

Catholic University of Malawi’s economist Hopkins Kawaye said it was baffling that the board had to fly all the way to Dubai for such training when President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima have been attending high level meetings virtually because of Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is a typical waste of government resources. Macra is demonstrating fiscal imprudence,” Kawaye said.

Macra is a statutory body established under the Communications Act, 1998 to regulate the provision of services in the communications sector in Malawi comprising telecommunications, posts and broadcasting.

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2 years ago

What I find difficult to understand in cases like these (including the RSA alcohol scandal) is the fact that not one single person is of strong enough character to stand his or her ground and say “This is not right. Count me out”. How can greed and lack of common sense be so pervasive? As the unattributed saying goes: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil (or corruption in this case) is for good men (or women) to do nothing. Never, ever belittle the strength of solitary protest. If you feel in your guts that something is not… Read more »

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