The embattled Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has declined to disclose how much it incurred on the presidential election case in relation to, among others, private legal services fees and other administrative costs.
The electoral body’s decision follows a request made by Youth and Society (YAS), a civil society organisation, in accordance with Section 37 of the country’s Constitution which gives every legal and natural person freedom to access public information useful for exercise of human rights.
In its demand letter dated February 18 2020, YAS requested MEC chief executive officer CEO Sam Alfandika to provide a breakdown of all expenditures incurred in the case, including unsettled bills, in the spirit of transparency and accountability of the commission.
Specifically, the CSO wanted a breakdown of costs the commission incurred on private legal services, administrative costs and costs associated with court orders awarding costs to other parties in the case.
In his response, the MEC CEO has told YAS that the commission is not under any obligation to share information on the costs on the basis that, among others, the CSO did not provide specific human rights that require information.
“You have not explained how the requested information is relevant to the exercise of political rights as provided under Section 40 of the Constitution,” reads part of the response dated March 3, 2020.
Alfandika says MEC is an independent corporate body that, for the purpose of accountability, is answerable and report directly to the President on the overall fulfilment of its functions and powers.
The letter further says MEC is under relevant provisions enjoined to keep proper books of accounts and its funds are also defined and managed in accordance with the Electoral Commission Act.
Reacting to MEC’s response on Friday, YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka said they were reviewing the matter and proper action would be taken.
However, he said they find the commission’s response “irresponsible and unreasonable.”
Meanwhile, MEC chairperson Jane Ansah on Friday said the electoral body had started preparing for the forthcoming fresh presidential election scheduled for May 19 2020.
She told the media in Blantyre that the commission had so far started servicing tool kits and recruiting stringers and biometric voter registration (BVR) kits operators in readiness for the exercise.
“Preparations have started but registration will not start on March 10 as others have been speculating. The exercise starts with the launch and after launching the fresh elections we will provide a whole calendar of events,” explained Ansah.
The commission has also declared Pharaoh Kambiri of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) winner in Thursday’s by-election in Liwawadzi Ward, Balaka. Kambiri amassed 2615 votes out of 4608 people who voted from 20629 registered voters.