The Central Internal Audit Unit of the Ministry of Finance conducted an investigative audit at the Malawi Electoral Commission between 27th April and 15th May, 2015.
The auditors had an exit meeting with MEC Management on 15th July, 2015. MEC submitted its responses on August 4, 2015. On August 7, 2015 the Director of Internal Audit issued a report which did not incorporate responses from the Commission.
On 14 August 2015 the MEC brought it to the attention of the Secretary to the Treasury on the omission and requested for the report to be revised. It was an amazement to MEC to get a letter from the Secretary to the Treasury six weeks later on 28 September, 2015 with the same report as a final version with an urge to the Commission to take action.
The MEC Chairman was compelled to seek an audience with the Chief Secretary to the Government and it was agreed that the audit report should be revised to include responses from MEC. This has also been communicated to the Secretary to the Treasury and it is the direction being pursued now.
However, the leakage of the report has generated wide media coverage and public interest. The Commission took a stand not to defend itself on material detail of the audit report with the impression that the final audit report will serve the purpose.
However, stakeholders have been calling on the Commission to come out on the issue and give to the public its responses on the audit queries.
During a meeting with the board of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) on November 12, 2015 and the National Elections Consultative Forum (NECOF) on November 13, 2015 members opined that the Commission should address the information gap created by leakage of the draft and delay in finalising the report.
In view of that the Commission has been compelled to avail to the public its documents and records that constitute its responses to the issues raised in the draft audit report. The compendium is available for download here and on SCRIBD at https://www.scribd.com/doc/291109661/MEC-Response-to-Investigative-Audit-by-Ministry-of-Finance
The call that an action should be taken basing on the audit findings has put the Commission in an awkward situation. The Commission cannot request the people mentioned to refund the allowances they got when there is full evidence that they did travel. The same applies to all other cases. All caution should be exercised to avoid victimising innocent persons who can be exonerated by the final audit report.
It should be stated that the Commission is ready to take any appropriate action and shield no one if a credible and thorough audit exercise substantiates financial mismanagement.
The Commission is committed to financial prudence in line with all public regulations and international standards. That is why apart from being audited by the Auditor General, it is also audited by private auditors. The Commission has also undertaken several initiatives to improve corporate governance and risk management by among others establishing a fully staffed Internal Audit Department and an Audit Committee of the Commission.
Signed this 24th day of November, 2015.
JUSTICE MAXON MBENDERA SC