Audit unearths rot at MISA Zambia

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), the Zambian Chapter has declined from a leader in media and human rights advocate to a body comprising a band of treacherous and profiteering lot, squabbling mostly not about issues, but money and contracts.

Most credible members of MISA have left in frustration and the once membership-driven organization now has about 40 paid up members only. Most of these are community radio station volunteers and Disc Jockeys (DJs) drawn from ural areas.

Recently, following a visit by international media experts and advocates, Post Managing Director, Fred Mmembe, referred to one senior MISA Zambia personality as a “dangerous” and “treacherous fellow”, who was doing more harm to the cause of media freedom worse than any other individual including Minister of information and Broadcasting, Ronnie Shikapwasha.

IRISH AID which funds (up-to K3billion) community radio stations through MISA for capacity building programs has threatened to with-hold funding if this ‘snake’ continues to be associated with MISA.

So what has happened at MISA? What is happening to MISA?

THE AUDIT REPORT OF MARCH 2010

The 2010 Audit of MISA Books by M.T. Ncube and Associates has highlighted and unearthed yet more serious irregularities.

In its Audit Report of March 2010, it cites continuous irregularities that have refused to go away audits after audits, year after year! These include irregularities in;

  1. Tender Awards to “Consultants”
  2. Change of Ownership of premises (The Titles for Plot 3814, Martin Mwamba Road, Secretariat for MISA have been missing for years and documents relating to the sale was only recently produced)
  3. Failure to code, track and trace MISA Assets
  4. Irregular payments to staff for rapporteuring and project allowances

The Audit Report accuses, the Executive Director of MISA Sipo Kapumba, of questionably awarding consultancies to Kenny Makungu, Richard Mwanza, Obert Ngandu and Eustace Nkandu without following tender procedures or opening up the tender process. These tenders are questionably awarded and not given in a competitive or transparent manner.

MISA has strangely not changed ownership of its property housing the Secretariat and continues to bear the name of Edison Chibwesha despite MISA buying the property many years ago.

MISA pays allowances to staff for doing their ordinary jobs.

MISA single-sources facilities for hire for their functions relating to seminars, workshops and meetings and competitive and comparative quotations are never obtained.

MISA continues to pay Per Diem arbitrarily and without uniform standards to its staff. Imprest is also not retired properly and in an accounting format, according to the audit management report.

The Audit also confirms the recent K70 million scandal that occurred involving MISA, Save the Children of Sweden and a former ZNBC Employee.

The Report states that the Chairperson of  MISA Zambia Governing Council Henry Kabwe was involved in this scam. Henry Kabwe did not provide his colleagues with documentation for Board approval. The Auditors also said they could not verify if the work was done for the K26million paid to Cleopatra Haamambo of ZNBC. (This matter is in court as Cleopatra, urged on by MISA board members and other individuals has sued ZNBC for wrongful dismissal)

In relation to this K70m scandal, the Audit Report states that procurement procedures were flouted and MISA continues to encourage unsound contracting practices and fails to practice standards of Good Corporate Governance.

The Audit report is damning and if MISA were a public body, there would be intense calls for action against perpetrators and calls for arrests and prosecutions would not be misplaced.

Following the damning Audit Report and the continual declining image of MISA, the Board requested executive director Sipo Kapumba to write an exculpatory letter to the National Governing Council (NGC).

In his nine-page report to the NGC, Kapumba, whose contract has been extended only up to December 2010, claimed that he has embarked on a stabilization process. He also claims that he has re-focused the Secretariat to its useful role. He states that he found staff that was working “in cells like Al-Qaida Works”

He claimed that MISA was overshadowed by the “ubiquitous” Media Liaison Committee (MLC) and condemned it for positioning itself as a “Supreme Media Mother Body”. He claimed that he had restored MISA to its position in the market and undisputed leader in the area of media law reforms, media freedom advocacy, promoting democracy and good governance.

He dismissed allegations that MISA or himself were compromised citing ‘’good works’’ he has done to help the process of media self regulation.

He claimed that he has improved the image of MISA and made it attractive to cooperating partners and members. He also states that MISA is now on the “ascendancy”.

He confirms that he had met the Minister of Information, Ronnie Shikapwasha on 3rd June 2010, MMD Spokesperson Dora Siliya on 22nd June 2010 and Parliamentary Chief Whip, Vernon Mwaaanga on 29th June 2010.

He went to these meetings alone and without a Board member.

The history to this case is that, after this meeting, Shikapwasha issued a statement claiming that most Media Liaison Committee members do not believe that self-regulation can work in Zambia!

He claimed that he used these meetings to persuade these officials on the need to support the efforts to establish a non-statutory, self-regulatory media council.

Yet he states that he met the EU Desk Officer for Zambia and informed her that government was resolved in its intention to establish a statutory media regulation!

He also “reported” to the MLC that the process of establishing ZAMEC should be hastened since in his view, Shikapwasha would not meet them and would proceed to enact a statutory regulation.

He stated that the core funding from Irish Aid is on course. He informed the Board that MISA has hired Reuben Lifuka (Transparency International Zambia president) as a consultant to draft and review the strategic plan. He stated that Lifuka has since completed the work and has produced a draft report.

He informed the Board, that he has embarked on new initiatives and sources of funding for various programs.

CONCLUSION

With the financial rot, the irregular corporate practices and the selling out of the institution by certain individuals, MISA will continue to decline and its standing as a respected advocate of media and human rights issues will constantly be questioned.

Senior members of the fraternity have shied away from the rot and refuse to be part of the circus.

Cooperating partners are exasperated as there are few bodies with the past standing of MISA that can carry out national programs and hope that the Board and ordinary members will recognize and reform MISA for it to play its critical role in the country and the region.

 Stakeholders like government are saddened by the development but enjoy watching this circus as institutions such as MISA which are among its fierce critics, fall prey to unsound practices they condemn government for and fail to practice what they preach!

There is need to uproot the rot at MISA before this institutions completes collapses.

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