Ministry of Finance, Economic Planning and Development has backtracked on its decision not to fund the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to hold Mchinji West by-elections until an investigation into allegations of financial mismanagement is finalised.
In an interview on Saturday, MEC Audit Committee chairperson Mary Nkosi said there is “a good understanding” between MEC and Treasury and that the finances would be released.
She said: “There is a good understanding between us [MEC and Treasury] and they [Treasury] gave assurances that funding for the by-elections would be made available without unduly disrupting our electoral calendar. We have indeed confidence in Treasury that they will honour their word.”
Initially, the by-elections were slated for October 4 this year, but MEC announced last week that they had postponed the polls due to lack of funding.
Nkosi further said the probe has started and is expected to take about a month.
She said: “I spoke to the Auditor General Stevenson Kamphasa and [he] has confirmed to me that the audit has effectively started as the team has been looking at the past audit reports. It is expected that the entire exercise will take approximately one month. I am not able to comment on the scope of the audit as this is not for public consumption. Remember it is an investigative audit.”
In an interview yesterday, Treasury spokesperson Nations Msowoya described MEC’s engagement of the auditors as an important first step.
He said: “Now that they have engaged the auditors, we take comfort in that important first step. We should be able to start funding.”
Nkosi said MEC is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that the financial irregularities are resolutely dealt with.
“In the same vein, the Auditor General will be meeting the Audit and Finance and Administration committees to discuss the process which they have embarked on and the meeting is scheduled for end of the week beginning September 5 2016,” she said.
MEC has in recent months been hit with funding woes, with Treasury saying it will not immediately move in to clear the debts which the electoral body owes its local and foreign creditors after reports for alleged abuse of public funds by its officials.
Last month, MEC sent seven of its staff, including chief elections officer Willie Kalonga, on forced leave to pave the way for audit investigations.
This led to Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe withholding about K500 million meant for by-elections in five constituencies. The decision led to the electoral body officially announcing the cancellation of its by-elections, citing the alleged financial mismanagement amounting to K15 million as the major cause.
Government appointed a three-member team comprising Kamphasa, retired Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal judge Duncan Tambala and AMG Global managing partner Rex Harawa to investigate the allegations.