Controversy has arisen over institutional vehicles for Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) commissioners whose terms expired on May 18, with the officers yet to handover the Toyota Land Cruiser TX Prado despite instructions from MEC to do so.
According to a letter written by MEC chief elections officer Willie Kalonga, which The Nation has seen, the commissioners were instructed to return the vehicles to MEC headquarters on May 19. But none had returned them by May 22.
“As your term of office comes to an end on 18 May 2016…..would you surrender the vehicles to our headquarters on May 19 2016,” said Kalonga in the letter dated May 17 2016.
Kalonga, in an interview on Sunday, confirmed writing the letter and that no vehicle had been returned by May 22 2016.
When contacted, two of the commissioners, Archbishop Emeritus Bernard Malango and Nancy Tembo did not pick their phones when contacted, while the Reverend Emmanuel Chinkwita-Phiri asked for a questionnaire, to which he did not respond by the time we went to press.
According to the conditions of service that Parliament approved in 2015, the commissioners are entitled to buy off their institutional vehicles at 10 percent of the original cost.
And in a letter dated May 14 2016, Kalonga wrote Treasury seeking direction on the matter considering that the tenure of office for the then commissioners would end on May 18 2016.
Reads the letter: “I would like to seek your guidance in determination of the original cost of motor vehicles as provided under article 4.2.2 of the Revised Terms and Conditions of Service for Commissioners of the Electoral Commission. The Article entitles the Commissioners to purchase the vehicles allocated to them at the end of their contract which is May 18 2016, at 10 percent of the original cost.”
But in response, Treasury said the conditions of service were not binding.
“You may wish to know that these conditions of service for the commissioners were not duly endorsed by the Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development. Kindly also note that under the Public Finance Management Act (2003), the Minister of Finance does not have discretionary powers to waive taxes,” reads a letter signed by Ministry of Finance director of revenue policy Chrispine Kulemeka.
In an interview yesterday, Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya said although Parliament approved the conditions of service, MEC was supposed to get guidance from Treasury due to the country’s current economic situation.
“These are financial matters governed by the Public Management Finance Act where the controlling officers are supposed to cross-check with Treasury before implementation. In the context of the country’s economy, MEC was supposed to get guidance from Treasury,” he said.
But Kalonga said MEC was only a recipient and that any consultation should have taken place between Parliament and Treasury. “These conditions of service were approved by the Public Appointments Committee [PAC] of Parliament and sent to us. If there was need for any consultation, it should have been between Parliament and Treasury,” said Kalonga yesterday.
In the conditions of service that Parliament approved in 2015, MEC commissioners are entitled to buy off their institutional vehicles at the expiry of their contract.
Section 4.2.2 of the Conditions of Service that Parliament approved in 2015 reads: “Chairperson and the commissioners shall be provided with official personal to holder vehicles with entitlement to purchase the same when it clocks five years or at the end of the contract, whichever is earlier, at 10 percent the original cost.
“The commissioners are also entitled to K10 million loans for the purchase of personal duty-free motor vehicles.”
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa told our sister newspaper Weekend Nation that the commissioners expressed interest to buy the vehicles, whose cost would be around K4.4 million based on 10 percent of the original cost.
President Peter Mutharika is expected to appoint new commissioners following the expiry of the term of the current commissioners on May 18 2016.n