Malawi Electoral Commission Emulates ECZ

“If you have to mirror an EMB in the sub-region, it has to be ECZ. Your reputation on election management out there is quite impressive ,” said Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Director Legal Services Mr David Matumika Banda. Speaking during a study a tour of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Legal department, Mr Banda said they had to visit the ECZ because it has a reputation as one of the most vibrant and best performing Electoral Management Body (EMB) in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). He said they had learnt that the Legal Department at the ECZ plans and coordinates the provision of legal services to the Commission in support of the functions of the Commission and also provides secretarial services to the Commission and Commission Committees. The delegation from MEC included Mr Banda and Regional Elections Officer Mr King Norman Rudi who visited the ECZ because MEC introduced a Legal Department as one of its Directorates three weeks ago. During the three day visit from 4th to 6th October 2017, MEC staff also visited other departments at the Commission. Mr Rudi said that previously MEC would outsource legal services to handle legal matters under the Electoral Operations department as there was no one who could deal with legal issues. “We used to outsource legal firms to attend to all legal issues at the Malawi Electoral Commission,” said Mr Rudi. At the ECZ however, Mr Rudi observed that the Legal department monitors the performance of legal firms and counsel engaged to conduct litigation on behalf of the Commission and takes necessary action to ensure that performance required was standard. Meanwhile, Mr Banda observed that the Legal department at ECZ plays a critical role by representing the Commission in court for litigation and preparing the agenda for Commission meetings and also ensures that all Members receive the agenda with necessary documentation for the meetings. He learnt that at the ECZ, not all legal cases involve outsourcing of legal firms as all administrative legal cases were taken up by the Legal department. “At the ECZ they only outsource Legal firms for election related cases because they are bulky. We learnt that, the 2016 General Elections and Referendum recorded 85 National Assembly petitions which were all determined by the High Court,” said Mr Banda. He noted that in instances where the ECZ had outsourced Legal firms, they all agreed to a flat rate and that during the 2016 General Elections and Referendum they had engaged a couple of firms to assist the department with election petitions. Mr Banda also learnt that the ECZ Legal department provides professional legal advice to the Commission on procedural and substantive issues relating to the electoral law. ECZ Legal Counsel, Mrs Triza Lungu who has been engaging with the Malawi delegation explained that MEC was essentially setting up their Legal department and that since both EMBs were coming from the same region and were both members of the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC (ECF-SADC) countries there was need to strengthen co-operation among the two electoral bodies and with other Electoral Commissions in the sub region. She added that the Legal department helps in the formulation and review of policies and procedures designed to ensure that the Commission and its employees comply with relevant electoral laws and regulations. Mrs Lungu said that the Legal department also monitors Commission activities and provides relevant legal advice to the Commission to ensure compliance with statutory requirements and also reviews legal implications in existing legislation and policies and recommends new legislation and amendments to existing legislation or policy. She explained that the Legal department prepares legal documents such as contracts and assignments on behalf of the Commission and also reviews proposals and prepares statutory instruments and gazette notices as required. “It also coordinates with the Attorney General's Chambers on legal matters of public interest related to the functions of the Commission and liaises with Procurement department for the engagement of legal firms to represent the Commission on special assignments and on on-going contracts of services,” she said. She further explained that the Legal department drafts routine responses to internal communication as directed by the Commission and carries out background research to get and organise information required by the Members of Commission to make decisions or take action. “It also organises reports and other documents on behalf of the Commission to ensure that Members of the Commission are well-prepared for meetings or presentations and also accompanies Members of the Commission, where necessary, for meetings, take notes and drafts reports of proceedings and conclusions on behalf of Members,” Mrs Lungu explained. Mrs Lungu added that the Legal department also follows up on actions taken based on the Commission and Commission Committee meetings to ensure that agreed recommendations and resolutions are implemented and also creates and maintains a high performance environment characterised by ethical performance and strong team orientation.   ......................... For this and more stories read the ECZ Monthly of October, 2017