The Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament on Monday rejected a reforms update report by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and asked the electoral body to refine the same by this Thursday.
Members of Parliament (MPs) belonging to the committee described the two-page report as “empty”, lacking substantive arguments and not fit for legislators to deliberate on.
But MEC deputy chief elections officer Harris Potani, who presented the report, told the MPs that some of the proposed reforms at MEC could not be undertaken due to lack of funds.
The report has come barely one month after the donor community expressed dissatisfaction with MEC’s handling of an audit report which revealed that public funds were illegally released from its purse.
During Minday’s meeting, PAC chairperson Lingson Belekanyama asked MEC officials to give an update on reforms.
He said: “You have said several issues about reforms, [such as on] recruitment… Can you be clearer enough as to what you mean? You have also talked about demarcation exercise, where are we now? Is it not going to take place now that its allocation has been sliced?”
In response, Potani said the money allocated is not enough and that part of the funds was used for other equally important functions. He assured that MEC will decide on the way forward.
He said: “We also have vacancies we need to be filled, for instance on the position of director of legal services. There are also some other [vacant] posts, these are not new. We simply want them filled up.”
However, Potani’s explanation did not go down well with the MPs who asked MEC officials to liaise with Treasury and come up with a clear position on matters being raised.
In his narration, Kasungu Central MP Elias Wakuda Kamanga (People’s Party-PP) said: “This essay [the report] you have written is not for us, maybe for your organisation.”
In his conclusion, Belekanyama asked the MEC officials to return on Thursday after clarifying issues with Treasury.
In recent months, MEC has been marred in controversies ranging from alleged abuse of funds to nepotism.
During its meeting in Lilongwe last month, Malawi Electoral Cycle Support (Mecs) Project Steering Committee, which comprises government officials and donor partners, recommended that senior MEC officials, including chief elections officer Willie Kalonga, go on one month leave to pave the way for investigations into allegations of financial abuse at the electoral body.
MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera, the sole commissioner after the term of office expired for the other commissioners on May 18, said in an earlier interview a three-member team comprising representatives of the Malawi Law Society, Institute of Chartered Accountants in Malawi (Icam) and audit and business advisory firm Deloitte will undertake the probe.
“The panel will look at the work of the auditors and also review the conduct of MEC. You [media] have gone to town gentlemen with the idea that money was stolen and we have contested that view from the very beginning.
“We are not seeking vindication. We want the truth to come out. If there was any money stolen, this exercise will show that. If the audit was rubbish, this will also show it. The jury is out there. It is not MEC that has set up this panel. It is a joint decision between Treasury and MEC,” he said. n