Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson, Justice Maxon Mbendera, has refused to resign over allegations of “management fraud” in flouting of procurement and recruitment procedures at the institution between July 2012 and December 2014.
Nyasa Times reported that a special investigative audit conducted following allegations of financial mismanagement and fraud indicates that MEC had poor financial management controls and that the commission procured and spent resources outside its budget; recruited staff without following procedures; made procurements without following regulations and disposed of 26 vehicles in a non-procedural manner.
But speaking at the opening of a course on Demarcation and Elections at Malawi Sun Hotel on Monday, Justice Mbendera was in denial of the audit report, saying it was a ploy to “tarnish the image” of him personally and the other Commissioners.
The training is targeting Commissioners of MEC, secretaries general and directors of elections for political parties.
The fraud allegations in the report before the Secretary to the Treasury and donor community, continued to diminish the reputation of MEC and public confidence in its leadership.
But Mbendera refuse to heed calls to step down in the best interest of the commission so that the investigations can proceed with the credibility that is needed.
He said the report was not conclusive and vows to fight to save his image.
But one comment posted on Nyasa Times challenged Mbendera to understand that he holds two public offices –a Supreme Court judge and MEC chair – both of which require that he be held accountable.
“You must be the first to welcome the audit and provide support to the auditors. You can of course defend yourself where necessary, but do not come here to silence citizens. If you do not want to account, resign, which is long overdue. No one will miss you, you’ve done enough damage already,” reads the comment.
Commissioner Emmanuel Chimkwita Phiri also said the report is not final and deny any wrong doing of the commissioners.
“These are allegations that are aimed at diverting public attention from the current myriad of problems Malawi is facing,” said Chimkwita Phiri.
He said the current commission struggled to clear similar fraud allegation of the previous commission which dented the electoral body’s image to the corporating partners.
Phiri fears the current allegation will affect its position to feed support from donors.
According to audit findings, MEC made bank transfers amounting to K118 667 404.44 to some unknown accounts; and paid out K15 422 756 in external travel allowances to commissioners and senior officers for trips that were not undertaken.
Other findings of financial mismanagement included personal loans paid from operation accounts without evidence of repayment K39 922 286.00 which were reportedly paid to commissioners and other senior managers at MEC.
A K16 million gratuity paid from operation funds is also a bone of contention as well as use of MEC funds on unapproved travel that cost K2 228 975.00; unjustified hiring of motor vehicles for the commission’s chief executive officer Willie Kalonga at K7 043 662, and overlapping subsistence allowances amounting to K4 688 000.00.
The audit also referred to an ad hoc expenditure on borrowing of lamps and tents from Zimbabwe during the elections which the auditors found was not provided for in the MEC budget.
The auditors also suspected under-valuation of a vehicle for the chairperson Justice Maxon Mbendera whose repair costs were assessed at K1.4 million, but valuation was pegged at K1.5 million and Kalonga’s vehicle, whose repair costs were assessed at K396 854 but valuation was pegged at K350 000.
“The audit team made an effort to enquire from [the car dealer] in order to establish the cause of under-valuation which was below or almost equal to assessed repair cost.
“But the official who signed the valuation forms [at the car dealer] deliberately avoided meeting the auditors,” reads the report.
MEC’s head of public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa and Chief Elections Officer Kalonga also said they would wait for the “final report” from the auditors which would contain the commission’s responses to the auditors’ queries.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :