Embattled Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) says it has embarked on a drive to put its house in order and reclaim public confidence amid allegations of financial abuse at the commission.
Commissioner Linda Kunje, who chairs MEC’s Finance and Administration Committee, said this in an interview in Blantyre on Wednesday on the sidelines of a three-day training workshop for commissioners and secretariat staff on the Public Procurement Act.
She said the training is critical in the process as it will refresh the participants’ knowledge and remind them about the issues they should always consider and critically scrutinise when undertaking procurement transactions.
Said Kunje: “We [MEC] are hoping that this meeting will remind us all about issues of integrity, accountability and transparency, among others. Again, for those who did not know what exactly is expected when doing public procurement, we hope the training will make them knowledgeable.”
She said as one way of achieving the process, MEC is training its commissioners and secretariat staff on the provisions of the Public Procurement Act because procurement accounts for almost 70 percent of the commission’s total budget.
The training workshop comes against the backdrop of allegations of financial abuse of about K15 million donor money at the commission that last week saw seven officers, including chief elections officer Willie Kalonga, being sent on forced leave to pave the way for investigations.
The decision followed a May 2015 resolution by delegates to the Malawi Electoral Cycle Support (Mecs) Project Steering Committee Meeting comprising government officials and development partners to send MEC senior managers on forced leave.
During the May meeting, Britain dismissed outright MEC’s explanation on how K15.4 million was spent between July 2012 and December 2014.
In early August 2016, government appointed a three-member team to probe allegations of financial abuse at MEC covering the period between July 2012 and December 2014.
The team comprises Auditor General Stephenson Kamphasa, retired Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judge Duncan Tambala and Rex Harawa, managing partner of AMG Global—certified public accountants and auditors.
Without necessarily confirming or denying whether lack of knowledge among the commission’s staff contributed to the suspected financial abuse at MEC, Kunje said: “With all due respect, most likely there are people who know what they are doing while there are also others who do not know what they are doing.”
Besides Kalonga, other officers sent on forced leave are deputy chief elections officer (operations) Harris Potani, director of administration and human resources George Khaki, director of finance Khumbo Phiri, procurement manager Edington Chilapondwa, procurement officer Chimwemwe Kamala and assistant procurement officer Sydney Ndembe.
Meanwhile, Kunje said the absence of the seven has not disrupted business at the commission as there are other senior managers still in office.
Over the years, MEC has been embroiled in scandals bordering on financial management and accountability.