Organisers of demonstrations to secure a refund of K5 million (about $10 000) that the National Aids Commission (NAC) expended during the launch of the Beautify Malawi (Beam) Trust launch have said they cannot stop questioning the rationale behind NAC’s funding of Beam on the basis that they also received money from the commission.
This week the NAC board chairperson, Mara Kum’bweza Banda, confirmed as authentic leaked documents that show that her organisation approved 54 grants worth K4.9 billion (about $9.8m) at its meeting held on Friday, January 1 2014 and that the organisations behind the protests are on the list of recipients.
Basing on the documents, trustee of Beam, MavutoBamusi, attacked organisers of the demonstrations as hypocrites in an interview on Thursday to get the reaction of trust, calling them “pawns being used in a game of cheap politics.”
The documents in our possession show that the Centre for the Development of the People (Cedep) which is one of the organisers of the demonstrations, Gift Trapence, got a grant of K44 863 192. 64 while another organiser, the Malawi Network of People Living with HIV (Manet+) received K133 873 064. 50 from NAC.
“We are not hypocrites. The question that we should be dealing with is whether our organisation has a component relating to HIV and Aids and whether Beam was eligible under those criteria.
“What is the relationship between the mandate of Beam and HIV and Aids issues? Did Beam follow the procedures to obtain that kind of money? Those are the issues that we are raising,” argued Trapence.
But Bamusi argued that the CSOs agitating for the demonstrations are acting on ignorance because Beam did not receive any grant from NAC and no procedure was violated.
“Ask Mr. Trapence and his fellow organisers to cite one procedure that was violated? Ask him, too, to produce evidence that Beam applied for a grant and the same was approved and appropriated by NAC,” he argued.
Besides, Bamusi demanded an explanation from the organisers of the demonstrations why the Joyce Banda Fund International (JBFI) received a grant of K73 million if monies at NAC are only meant for those that are directly involved in HIV and Aids issues.
“Can they ask the same questions about the JBFI grant?” he asked. “Does Mr. Trapence know that even the State Residences received a grant of K49 million? Can he explain the relationship between the mandate of State Residences and HIV and Aids? Are they also demanding a refund of this?”
Trapence argued that if the JBFI received a grant it means that it met the criteria that NAC uses in providing financial support to applicants.
“NAC is able to provide an explanation for that one. But our stand remains the same that money at NAC should be used only to make investment in areas where there will be an impact,” argued Trapence.
JBFI managing director Edith Akridge confirmed receiving a grant from NAC, but argued that several institutions applied in response to an advertised request for proposals in the newspaper and JBFI was one of the institutions that applied and went through the evaluation process.
“I am of the opinion that JBFI was given a microscopic review than any other institution. NAC has its guidelines of identifying partner organisations and providing grants. I would, therefore, say that NAC would be best to respond to how our proposal was evaluated,” she said.
She added: “I would also like to point out that this is not the first time our organisation received funding from NAC. We received our first grant in April 2003. JBFI has, therefore, been working with NAC on and off for 10 years.”
Ben Mbewe, who was chief staff of State Residences at the time the grant is said to have been approved, has not provided a response to our inquiry with regard to the grant to the State Residences.
Kum’bweza Banda confirmed on Tuesday that Cedep, Manet+, JBFI and State Residences are among the organisations whose applications for grants were approved, authenticating the figures as K44 863 192. 64; K113 873 064.50; K73 593 400.00 and K49 790 605.76 respectively.
“Yes,” was Kum’bweza Banda’s answer when asked to confirm that the grants approved by the NAC board in January 2014 were 54 and the total amount of the money involved was K4.9 billion.
Explaining the criteria that NAC follows to approve a grant to an applicant, she said:
“NAC approves grants from an applicant if they are legally registered organisations, have functional governance structures, have capacity in all key grant management and programme implementation functions.”
Asked about who is eligible to apply for a grant from NAC and whether there is a limitation, Banda said:
“The national response to HIV and Aids is multi-sectoral since the epidemic has not spared any sector. As such, organisations from the public, private, faith, civil society, research and academia sectors are eligible to apply as long as they satisfy the stipulated criteria and funds are available.”
Meanwhile, Kum’bweza Banda said the Global Fund (GF) and other donors that finance NAC do not expect a refund of K5 million which was expended during the launch of First Lady Gertrude Mutharika’s Beam.
Kum’bweza Banda said donors were satisfied that the expense and the process followed in making it were not anomalous.
“It is correct that our donors wanted to know what was going on. We explained to them what happened. They are satisfied with our explanation. So as we do [as NAC], they do not expect the money to be paid back,” said Kum’bweza Banda.