Senior managers at Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) remain in office two months after they were ordered to go on a one-month forced leave to pave the way for investigations into allegations of financial abuse at the electoral body.
In May this year, delegates to the Malawi Electoral Cycle Support (Mecs) Project Steering Committee meeting comprising government officials and development partners passed a resolution to send MEC senior managers, including chief elections officer Willie Kalonga, on forced leave.
During the meeting, Britain dismissed outright MEC’s explanation on how funds amounting to K15 422 756 million were spent between July 2012 and December 2014 and told the electoral body point blank that it suspected the money was stolen.
In an interview last week, one of the affected officers, Kalonga confirmed being in office, but said he was answerable to his employers, MEC.
He said: “We cannot simply walk out and go. It is the commission that will make the decision for us to either go on leave or stay following appropriate laws. We are also supposed to wait for a group of panellists who will validate these allegations. Until then, there is nothing we can do.”
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, who was one of the people who recommended that the top bosses go on administrative leave, referred the matter to Secretary to Treasury Ronald Mangani.
However, Mangani said Kalonga was right that it was up to the commission to make the decision because government only made a recommendation.
He said: “Recommending is not implementing. We made the recommendations to the appointing authorities and it is up to the appointing authorities to take the recommendations or not.”
MEC chairperson Maxon Mbendera also confirmed that the directors are still working, but said they will go at the right time.
He said: “There are people who are supposed to come and verify the audits. As of now, they have not yet come and, think about it, if we had sent them in May, June, July and this is August, would we have an organisation?
“We will do that and now it seems we are in the final stages of implementing this. When the panellists tell us when they are coming, then we will send them on leave, and you will be told when that happens.”
In an earlier interview, Mbendera, a judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, said 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 will undertake the probe into MEC financial dealings.
On May 18, The Nation reported that during a Mec meeting on January 19 2016, development partners, notably Britain, United States of America and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), rejected MEC’s explanation on expenditure and suspected fraud as well as nepotism at the institution.