Senior managers of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), including chief elections officer Willie Kalonga, remain in officie despite being sent on one –month forced leave to pave the way for investigations into allegations of financial abuse at the electoral body.
A resolution was passed in May by the Malawi Electoral Cycle Support (Mecs) Project Steering Committee comprising government officials and development partners to send all officers from the level of director upwards on forced leave following audit reports suggesting abuse of resources
But the officers remain in office and stateholders fear they could work to defeat justice.
MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera,who is also a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said they are waiting for a three-member team comprising representatives of the Malawi Law Society (MLS), Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (Icam) and audit and business advisory firm Deloitte to undertake the probe.
He said when team of investigators are ready to undertake the probe, the MEC officers will be sent on forced leave and that will be announced.
Chief Elections Officer Kalonga also said he remains in office because his employers, MEC has not sent him home and that what Mecs did was just a recommendation that they should go for administrative leave.
Nyasa Times were first to report about a special investigation of MEC, conducted by the Central Internal Audit Unit of the Ministry of Finance, which uncovered rampant mismanagement of public resources at the electoral body.
The report Reference No 1A/270/15/0018, issued on August 7, 2015, states that MEC flouted procedures and the amounts questioned are in excess of MK1.5 billion. The 40 page long report cites:
- Procuring and spending outside budget and failure to maintain appropriate accounting records;
- Recruiting staff without following laid down procedures;
- Procuring without due regard to regulations; and,
- Disposing used vehicles to the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), commissioners and staff in a non-procedural manner.
The irregularities did cost the tax-payer funds in excess of MK1.5 billion.
Summarizing the catalogue of non-compliance to the Public Financial Management Act, the report, seen by Nyasa Times and subjected to various authentication correspondences with the Spokesman of the Treasury, the Chief Secretary, the Chairperson and CEO of MEC, the National Audit Office, and other stakeholders, queries MEC on:
- Financial mismanagement;
- Irregularities in staff recruitment;
- Anomalies in disposal of used motor vehicles; and
- Non-compliance with procurement law.
- Financial mismanagement, amounts queried total MK883,537,531.00
Specific findings include:
- Incomplete accounting records which it states can mislead management into making inappropriate decisions;
- Maintaining an unnecessary number of bank accounts which complicates tracking of funds;
- Unreliable bank reconciliations which can ease occurrence and concealment of fraud as was the case with “cashgate”;
Among other things, the auditors suspected foul play in the way the vehicles were valued. In the case of the two vehicles allocated to the CEO for instance, the Chairperson’s vehicle, registration TO2966, had just incurred repair costs of MK1,419,000 yet it ended up being valued at MK1,500,000.
The CEO’s official vehicle was repaired to the tune of MK396,854 and somehow, valued atMK350,000.
The Commission also incurred costs on the other motor vehicles earmarked for boarding-off amounting to MK744,976.10. In other words, the MEC CEO, some commissioners and staff acquired public vehicles for a song, after the Commission had invested a fortune in their repairs in a well-orchestrated looting manouvre.
Issues on procurement include a sum of MK104,701,494.50 which the audit reports states did not comply with Public Procurement Laws. Again, in a scenario reminiscent of cashgate, MEC failed to substantiate the supply of goods by SCI Tanzania which was paid a whopping MK16,688,709. SCI, per their website, is a market-leader in technology consulting and solutions.
Goods procured outside the procurement plan and budget amounted to MK40,655,225; while andMK526,639,314.59 was noted by the auditors to have been spent in excess of the threshold where the Office of the Director of Public Procurement should have granted prior approval.
Development partners, notably Britain, United States of America and UNDP rejected MEC’s explanation on expenditure and suspected fraud as well as nepotism at the institution.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :