Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) and the Accountant General have clarified that there is nothing wrong with the electoral body having a bank account named after the title of its controlling officer, the chief elections officer (CEO).
Accountant General Sungani Mandala said on Monday the account in question is an operations account normal in the public sector.
He said besides MEC, other government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) also have bank accounts in the names of the offices of their respective controlling officers such as principal secretaries (PSs), district commissioners (DCs) and chief executive officers who are also co-signatories.
Mandala’s reaction followed the publication of a story on Monday that government transferred K4 billion into MEC CEO account on the eve of the May 21 Tripartite Elections.
He said: “It is procedural to pay to chief elections officer account which is a duly authorised operating account for MEC. That money was used for election logistics.
“All MDAs have operating accounts where the controlling officers are the ones cashing on behalf of the institution. So that was the same with MEC.
“We can’t write a cheque to Ministry of Health, we write to the controlling officer so that when something goes wrong, the controlling officer is in a position to answer, so that is the same with MEC.”
Mandala said the K4 billion in question was part of the K32 billion funding for the elections.
“There was more money that was deposited and withdrawn in the account. I wonder why this is a matter of concern now,” he said.
In a separate statement, MEC also said the CEO account was legitimate and one of the electoral body’s several bank accounts held with commercial banks.
In a statement signed by MEC director of media and public relations Sangwani Mwafulirwa, the electoral body said its CEO, as an officer defined in the Public Finance Management Act, is the controlling officer; hence, all the funds and resources are under his control.
Reads the statement in part: “The operational procedure is that all government funding goes into the MEC Ifmis [Integrated Financial Management and Information System] account domiciled at the Southern Region Treasury Cashier.
“For money to be transferred into the Chief Elections Officer account at FDH Bank, MEC writes the Accountant General for authorisation, justifying the amount and also the purpose and the Accountant General gives a ‘No objection’ when he is satisfied with the reasons provided.”
The statement said the K4 billion in question was duly authorised by the Accountant General.
“In March 2019, the Treasury also transferred K8.5 billion. These amounts were meant to facilitate payment of printing of ballot papers and other bills for electoral activities, and allowances for security officers, polling staff and other service providers during the polling exercise,” reads the statement.
FDH Bank last evening issued a statement, saying the account was inherited from the then wholly government owned Malawi Savings Bank which FDH Financial Holdings Limited purchased in 2015.
The bank said the account was valid and met all required legal requirements for operation.
But Malawi Congress Party secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka said the explanations were not adding up. He said it was illegal for the CEO to operate the account.
“It must be investigated, according to Section 20 of the Financial Crimes Act of 2016,” he said.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), organisers of the July 4 and 5 vigils and demonstrations to push for the resignation of MEC chairperson Jane Ansah, indicated they will include the K4 billion transfer in their new petition. But when contacted following the clarification from MEC, Accountant General and FDH Bank, both HRDC chairperson Timothy Mtambo and vice-chairperson Gift Trapence could not be reached as their phones went unanswered.