Youth and Society (YAS), a civil society organisation, has penned Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale to querry the hiring of foreign lawyers for the election appeal case at a staggering $788 000 (about K600 million) million on public funds and why he is still acting for Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) indirectly through procurement of legal services.
In its letter dated March 13 2020, which Nyasa Times has seen, YAS says no open tender for legal services is known to have been floated in respect to retention of South African lawyers according to procurement laws.
YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka confirmed to Nyasa Times the authenticity of the letter.
The grouping challenged the Attorney General to bring evidence and justification if the procurement of South African lawyers was the single-source method and if it was vetted by the Anti Corruption Bureau.
YAS states that it has information that on February 20 2020, David Matumika Banda, director of legal services at MEC prepared and filed skeleton arguments on the appeal for which the foreign legal services have been procured.
“We are aware that the appeal has since been scheduled for hearing on 15th April 2020 which suggests that all the key procedures have been satisfied at this juncture.
“With that in mind, information floating on social media indicates that the lelgal services are being procured at the whooping and obscene sum of $788 500.00 of public money.”
YAS asks AG to explain how he may have complied with the requirement of the general policy of due diligence.
The letter also pointed out published reports on March 13 2020 the Secretary to Treasury and the then Minister of Finance expressed ignorance of the procurement of legal services from South Africa at public expense.
“Kindly indicate in what manner it was proper for you to do procurement or facilitate the procurement and commit huge public funds in this matter,” reads the letter.
YAS has also asked to confirm what the embattled MEC chairperson Jane Ansah said on March 13 2020 that the electoral body was paying Attorney General fees for handling the election case on its behalf as government’s chief legal advisor.
Ansah said this in Blantyre during the National Elections Consultative Forum (Necof) meeting attended by political party representatives and other electoral stakeholders.
“Democracy is not cheap. They are the same costs the Attorney General [Kalekeni Kaphale] was getting when he was representing the Commission in the case,” she told the gathering when answering a question.
YAS asks Kaphale to “confirm or deny this.”
The organisation has indicated that in the event that he was receiving the payment and that it is illegal and improper, they demand Kaphale to return the money.
The letter comes after the electoral body a declined to disclose how much it incurred on the presidential election case in relation to, among others, private legal services fees and other administrative costs.
In its demand letter dated February 18 2020, YAS requested MEC chief executive officer CEO Sam Alfandika to provide a breakdown of all expenditures incurred in the case, including unsettled bills, in the spirit of transparency and accountability of the commission.
Specifically, the CSO wanted a breakdown of costs the commission incurred on private legal services, administrative costs and costs associated with court orders awarding costs to other parties in the case.
In his response, the MEC CEO has told YAS that the commission is not under any obligation to share information on the costs on the basis that, among others, the CSO did not provide specific human rights that require information.
“You have not explained how the requested information is relevant to the exercise of political rights as provided under Section 40 of the Constitution,” reads part of the response dated March 3, 2020.
Alfandika says MEC is an independent corporate body that, for the purpose of accountability, is answerable and report directly to the President on the overall fulfilment of its functions and powers.
The letter further says MEC is under relevant provisions enjoined to keep proper books of accounts and its funds are also defined and managed in accordance with the Electoral Commission Act.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :