The appearance of two Malawi Electoral Commissioners (MEC) Commissioners yesterday before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee (PAC) has exposed numerous administrative lapses at the commission in election management.
PAC has summoned the commissioners one by to hear their side of story on how they managed the May 21, 2019 elections to determine whether they are fit to run fresh presidential polls as ordered by the Constitutional Court.
First to undergo the capacity test was Commissioner Bishop Mary Nkosi who among other things admitted that MEC erred to announce election results that had numerous irregularities.
"The Commission was working against the eight days period within which it is mandated by the law to announce results. But it could have been better for MEC to seek court intervention to have enough time to properly address complaints."
However Commissioner, Bishop Nkosi told Parliament that the Commission thought it had performed its duties well until the May 21 Presidential election results were challenged in court.
She disclosed that during the results management process, Commissioners observed that a correction fluid called Tippex was being used to conceal some figures and immediately asked DBO auditors if it was okay to continue using the result sheets.
"The head of DBO auditors said he could not put in writing, to authorize that we should continue using the Tippexed result sheets. He said it was not right and against electoral laws."
Commissioner Bishop Nkosi also told Parliament that she wanted to resign from MEC after observing that the commission was heading in the wrong direction but was advised against the decision by lawyers.
She said the lawyers told her she would complicate things and risked to lose benefits she is entitled to as commissioner.
The visibly composed MEC commissioner said she had hoped that she would be summoned to court to testify during the presidential election case. 'But surprisingly we were not'.
Commissioner, Bishop Nkosi surprised MPs when she disclosed that commissioners signed for the results declaring winner of the presidential election on the morning of President Peter Mutharika's swearing-in.
She has told the Parliament that refusing to sign for the results at that point would not have changed anything as the results had already been made public.
According to commissioner, Bishop Nkosi there was growing mistrust among commissioners alleging that the commission chair Jane Ansah summoned her on allegations that she was leaking information.
The MEC commissioner also disclosed that commissioners were never updated on how results of the May 21 elections were being received and managed but at the end they were given already prepared results to announce the winner of the presidential race.
But appearing before the Parliamentary Appointments Committee in the afternoon, Commissioner Elvey Kalonga Mtafu her understanding of the work of MEC commissioners is that of supervisors.
She therefore said the commission executed its duties well during the May 21, 2019 tripartite elections.
The Commissioner told Parliament that she has not yet finished reading the 500 page Constitutional Court judgment in the Presidential election case but that a summary judgment prepared by a team of lawyers is enough to warrant MEC appeal against the court's decision.
She added, MEC Chairperson Jane Ansah signed for the commission’s appeal.
On the use of tippex during the last election, Commissioner Mtafu admitted the correction fluid was used but expressed ignorance on its source.
However Commissioner Mtafu’s responses did not amuse members who alleged the telling lies. PAC Chairperson Collins Kajawa, warned Commissioner Ntafu against lying on oath to the committee reminding her of the powers of the committee and the consequences of not telling the truth.
The committee also expressed dissatisfaction with the commissioner’s responses during her appearance.
“We are disappointed that the commissioner in her responses demonstrated that she was not prepared to appear before the committee despite that she was informed prior to the meeting what she will be required to respond to prior to the meeting”
PAC continues to meet MEC commissioners today and at the end of this will make its passion on the capacity of the commissioners to handle the forthcoming fresh presidential elections.
In its judgment among other things, the five judge panel constitutional court ordered that Public Appointments Committee of Parliament review the commissioners’ ability to run the election following numerous irregularities observed in their conduct during the May 21, 2019 Tripartite Elections.