The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) could have saved about K9 million (US$21 791.8) if the gas lamps and cylinders for use in the May 20 Tripartite Elections were sourced locally, The Nation calculations have established.
A social commentator has since faulted MEC for not carrying out a cost-benefit analysis before borrowing the equipment from Zimbabwe.
MEC borrowed gas lamps and cylinders from its counterpart in Zimbabwe for lighting at night during vote counting at centres without electricity.
MEC footed the cost of transporting the materials from Zimbabwe, but will also be responsible for filling the cylinders with gas.
Last month, MEC took delivery of 8 452 gas cylinders and 9 500 gas lamps. Six trucks, some with foreign number plates, were used to deliver the materials. A seventh truck offloaded the remaining 1 048 gas cylinders on Monday last week at MEC warehouses in Blantyre.
MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa could not indicate how much it cost to transport the materials.
However, Road Transport Operators Association (RTOA) executive director Chrissie Flao said it costs $3 000 (about K1 236 000) per truckload from Harare in Zimbabwe to Blantyre. This means the cost of seven trucks is around $21 000 (about K8 652 000).
MEC will also have to buy gas for 9 500 cylinders at a cost of K4 508.16 per cylinder, totalling K428 275.20, according to the quotation obtained from Afrox Malawi Limited in Blantyre, the local gas supplier.
The total cost of transport and gas is about K9 080 275.20.
Afrox Malawi sell one gas lamp set, including gas and tax, at K35 066.51. This means that 9 500 gas lamps would have cost MEC K3 331 318.45 and MEC could have saved about K5. 7 million.
Mwafulirwa said in an interview on Wednesday: “I do not know the cost because I do not have the details.”
Social commentator Mabvuto Bamusi accused MEC of not practising public finance management properly which, he said, is ideal for accounting for public funds.
Said Bamusi: “MEC should have carried out a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether it was cheaper to buy locally than spend on transport to borrow from Zimbabwe. Not doing so is a disregard to use the public money properly.”