Government has backtracked on its earlier decision to buy vehicles for new commissioners of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), saying Treasury has no funds for the expenditure line.
The development comes barely weeks after government indicated it was buying each of the eight commissioners top-of-the-range Toyota Prado TX vehicle, a venture that would have cost taxpayers about K317.6 million.
Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya confirmed in an interview yesterday that government coffers cannot afford the expenditure.
He said: “Government does not have the money to buy new vehicles for the commissioners, at least not any time soon. Not in this financial year. For now, they will have to do with what is available.”
On why government indicated earlier that it would purchase new vehicles, Msowoya said “that is in their conditions of service but it does not imply that we will buy the vehicles because there is no money”.
Currently, some of the commissioners are using old MEC vehicles while othershave been provided with government vehicles primarily availed to them to facilitate their movement ahead of the November 1 by-elections.
Only newly appointed chairperson Jane Ansah, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, has an official vehicle, which was being used by her predecessor, the late Maxon Mbendera.
The new commissioners did not find official vehicles at MEC after government gave the previous cohort a go-ahead to buy the Toyota Land Cruiser TX Prados they were using as per their conditions of service.
According to the revised terms and conditions of service for the commissioners, article 4.2.2 states that office bearers are entitled to purchase institutional vehicles allocated to them after five years of use or at the end of their contract; whichever may come first.
MEC acting spokesperson Richard Mveriwa said in an interview there was nothing MEC could do and will still be waiting from government.
Commissioner Jean Mathanga, who chairs MEC electoral services committee, said the team appreciated the situation at hand that government does not have money for new vehicles.
She said: “At the moment, just to facilitate the by-elections, government has provided us vehicles despite the fact that they are not the best one would expect. But government committed to buy the vehicles for us so we are just waiting.
“But we are sure that once things normalise they are going to get us the vehicles as I am sure they also appreciate the importance of the commissioners using reliable vehicles.”
A senior public servant confided in The Nation that government was looking at the arrangement of buying the vehicles for each cohort of commissioners every five years.
Said the officer: “The arrangement is very flawed. With the current economic situation government cannot manage to be buying these pricey vehicles for the commissioners every five years, but government is doing something about it.”
The vehicles that were taken by the previous past commissioners were bought at duty free in 2013 at K19 million each. n