The Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) Board in Malawi has trashed a letter from the United Nations AIDS Agency (UNAIDS) calling for the immediate release from custody of rights activists Gift Trapence and MacDonald Sembereka, saying such a call is an obstruction to justice especially as it is apparent that the two really have a case to answer.
Trapence and Sembereka were arrested on Tuesday to face charges of fraud before the Lilongwe Resident Magistrate Court after running an unregistered organisation called Malawi Non-Governmental Organization (MANGO) Network through which they were abusing funds received from UNAIDS.
After their arrest and remand at Maula Prison in the Capital Lilongwe, UNAIDS called for the immediate release of the two, saying it indeed there was misappropriation of funds by MANGO but the case did not require legal action against the organisation because it was ” resolved amicably”.
However, in a statement signed by NGO Board Chief Executive Officer, Voice Mhone, the board says UNAIDS should allow justice to take its course without undue obstruction.
“We find it strange and improper for UNAIDS to ask for closure of the matter before the courts have handled it as this will contradict the very principles of transparency and accountability which the UN family so ardently promotes and jealousy safeguards.
“We caution the UN against setting precedence which will choke future efforts to fight abuse of funds and promote accountability,” says the statement.
According to the statement, the Board is concerned that the reported abuse of funds has taken place under the watch of prominent Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) and activists who are themselves supposed to be pacesetters in the issues of promoting accountability.
It notes that fraud is rampant in the NGO sector as has been illuminated through the case of MANGO, adding that there are also many other cases of NGOs not complying in submitting annual financial reports and audits.
“The NGO sector registers over MK1 trillion in annual income, yet only 25 percent of this sum is backed with audits through reports presented to the NGO Board,” the statement says.
It adds that a number of NGOs do not register with the NGO Board in a bid to stay away from being accountable to the Malawian people.
The statement then calls for the need to promote a strong civil society that can hold duty bearers accountable while it too is also being accountable to the people and free of criminal elements.
“That is why as NGO Board we are looking forward to seeing justice taking its course on MANGO together with its leadership Mr. Gift Trapence and Mr Macdonald Sembereka,” said the statement.
The NGO Board is a statutory organization established to promote the development of a strong independent civil society and a development-centered NGO sector.
It facilitates the formation and effective functioning of NGOs to the benefit of the Malawian people.
The Board also promotes donor and public confidence in the NGO sector by incorporating principles of fiduciary integrity, public accountability, and non-discrimination.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :