Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has sacked its embattled and hitherto suspended chief elections officer Willie Kalonga over alleged financial abuse at the electoral body.
Kalonga, who has been dismissed alongside director of administration and human resources George Khakhi, confirmed the development in an interview yesterday.
He said: “Yes, it is true I received the letter two weeks ago, but I have appealed [against the decision]. The reasons cited in the letter are not convincing.
“I was wrongly charged using Section 10 of the Public Finance Management Act. MEC is a statutory corporation, not a ministry or government department. Rules of natural justice demand that I should be heard, but I wasn’t.
“I am not a controlling officer. My job description is that of a chief elections officer, but they chose to ignore all that. That is why I am appealing on those grounds.”
Kalonga also said his dismissal letter shows that it was the disciplinary committee and not MEC that recommended his removal, a development he said was an anomaly.
He said: “I was not employed by the committee, but the commission. As far as I know, no coin missed at MEC, only that books were not reconciled. Surprisingly, all the people directly responsible for cash have been cleared of all charges, but I [have been] dismissed.”
Kalonga was sent on forced leave on August 24 2016 alongside deputy chief elections officer (operations) Harris Potani, Khaki, director of finance Khumbo Phiri, procurement manager Edington Chilapondwa, procurement officer Chimwemwe Kamala and assistant procurement officer Sydney Ndembe.
The electoral body has since reinstated Phiri and Chilapondwa who have reported back for work.
Both Phiri and Chilapondwa yesterday confirmed in separate interviews that they reported for duties on Monday last week.
Said Phiri: “It is true that I am now back in office, but I cannot tell you what was written in the letter I received. You would have to talk to our media relations person Mr Mwafulirwa who can speak on that.”
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa asked for a questionnaire yesterday, but he was yet to provide The Nation a response as we went to press.
MEC earlier also recalled some officers who were also on suspension, including Potani, Kamala and Ndembe.
The senior managers and some staff were sent on forced leave to pave the way for investigations into the financial abuse at the electoral body.
The suspension followed a decision made in May last year by delegates to the Malawi Electoral Cycle Support (Mecs) Project Steering Committee meeting, comprising government officials and development partners.
During the meeting, Britain dismissed outright MEC’s explanation on how K15.4 million was spent between July 2012 and December 2014.
A three-member team comprising Auditor General Stevenson Kamphasa, retired judge of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal Duncan Tambala and Rex Harawa, managing partner for AMG Global—certified public accountants and auditors, probed the allegations of financial abuse at the electoral body.
In November 2015, Treasury asked MEC to take appropriate disciplinary measures in dealing with officials involved in violation of Public Finance Management Act
In a summary of the findings of the alleged financial mismanagement at MEC. It was reported that the commission management, among others, authorised bank transfers worth K118 667 404.44 to unknown bank accounts, invested K388 040 000 without commissioners’ written approval and paid out external travel allowances to commissioners and senior officers amounting to K15 422 756 for a trip allegedly not undertaken.
The audit was conducted by the Central Internal Audit under the Ministry of Finance following allegations of financial misconduct and fraud in procurement and recruitment procedures. n