The Malawi NGO Board has warned the United Nations (UN) against obstructing justice in the case in which two rights activists are facing charges of fraud.
The two activists – Macdonald Sembereka and Gift Trapence – were arrested on Tuesday for running an unregistered organisation called MANGO and abusing funds received from the UNAIDS.
On Wednesday, UNAIDS called for the immediate release of the activists saying it reported MANGO to police but the case did not represent legal action against the organisation.
However, in a statement today, NGO Board Chief Executive Officer Voice Mhone said the UN should allow justice to take its course without undue obstruction.
“We find it strange and improper for the UNAIDS to ask for closure of the matter before the courts have handled it as this will contradict the very principles of transparency and accountability which the UN family so ardently promotes and jealousy safeguards.
“We caution the UN against setting precedence which will choke future efforts to fight abuse of funds and promote accountability,” Mhone said.
According to Mhone, the Board is concerned that the reported abuse of funds abuse has taken place under the watch of prominent Civil Society Organisation (CSOs) activists who are themselves supposed to be pacesetters in the issues of promoting accountability.
He noted that in the NGO sector fraud is rampant as has been illuminated through the case of MANGO saying there are also many cases of non-compliance in submitting annual financial reports and audits.
“The NGO sector registers over MK1 trillion in annual income, yet only 25 percent of this sum is backed with audits through reports presented to the NGO Board,” Mhone said.
Mhone added that a number of NGOs do not register with the NGO Board in a bid to stay away from being accountable to Malawian people.
He then called for a need to promote a strong civil society that can hold duty bearers accountable while also being accountable to the people and free of criminal elements.
“That is why NGO Board is looking forward to seeing justice taking its course on MANGO together with its leadership Mr. Gift Trapence and Mr Macdonald Sembereka,” Mhone said.
Trapence and Sembereka were arrested days after they led protests against Malawi Electoral Commission chairperson Jane Ansah.