TAxpayers are paying two people for one executive position at Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) after government sent back another director, Gerald Chiunda, to a post which he was replaced.
The Nation has established that Chiunda left Maneb in 2013 for a job at Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) in France.
However, Maneb in the same year terminated Chiunda’s services, claiming he had breached rules of secondment by not returning to work at the end of his six-month assignment.
Come July this year, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (moest) sent Chiunda back to Maneb on what it called “desecondment” arrangement.
At the time of the moest decision, Chiunda was personal assistant (PA) to Minister of Education, Science and Technology Emmanuel Fabiano who hired him in March 2015.
In an e-mail response last Monday, Maneb public relations officer Simeon Maganga said moest’s decision to redeploy Chiunda to the body leaves it with two officers—Chiunda and Christopher Kananji—occupying the position of director of research and test development.
Maganga said the examinations body had “declared vacant” Chiunda’s post and that “it was subsequently filled”.
But he said: “moest seconded him back to us this year; Maneb had to obey government by accepting him back to the position he was holding before he left. Further, the board [of directors] obliged by accepting Mr Chiunda back, but could not reverse its decision on the appointment it had made…
“Otherwise, Maneb is indeed having two directors on the post of director of research and test development. And the government is aware of the situation.”
When contacted by telephone last week, Chiunda said he would not comment because he was not the appointing authority as he had just received instructions to go to Maneb.
The Nation has also learnt that apart from reinstating Chiunda effective July 31 2016 to the position that is already occupied, moest also directed that he be paid a 17-month package from March 1 20l5 to July 31 2016.
A well-placed source at Maneb said Chiunda’s position was declared vacant after he breached the board’s conditions of service on leave of absence upon the expiry of his six-month secondment to SACMEQ. The source alleged that Chiunda defied Maneb’s order for him to return home.
The Nation could not independently establish why Maneb permanently filled up the vacancy; whether in doing so due process was followed and why someone whom Maneb had dismissed could be “de-seconded” to the institution.
In a follow-up interview yesterday, Maganga said Maneb has no information in its records showing that Chiunda was once seconded to moest and the fact that his position was filled meant that he was no longer a Maneb employee.
In a letter to Chiunda dated July 8 2016, reference number SFC/B77130/HQ, which The Nation has seen, the then moest Principal Secretary Lonely Magreta advised him that government had approved that he be “de-seconded” from the mainstream civil service—moest—to Maneb with effect from July 31 2016.
The letter was copied to government legal adviser, Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale.
Added the letter: “Please wind up your activities and prepare to report at Malawi National Examinations Board. By copy of this letter, the acting executive director [of] Maneb is directed to pay you 17 months remuneration for the period from 1st March 20l5 to 31st July 2016, [which is] the period you worked at the Ministry Headquarters awaiting your de-secondment.
“This money will be refunded to Malawi National Examinations Board by government less salaries you received as personal assistant to the honourable minister. Let me take this opportunity to thank you for the good work you did at the [SACMAQ] as technical manager and at the Ministry Headquarters as personal assistant to the honourable minister.”
But a source at the Department of Human Resources Management and Development (DHRMD) said PA to a Cabinet minister is not an “established position” in government, meaning that Chiunda was not a civil servant to be de-seconded anywhere.
The source further observed that government policy entails that salary is attached to a position and wondered where Maneb will be getting Chiunda’s salary since the pay for the position will be going to Kananji.
“This whole arrangement looks awkward. How can he be seconded from a high position of Director at Maneb to a position of Personal Assistant to the minister?” Said the source.
Moest spokesperson Manfred Ndovi told The Nation that issues of parastatals, including secondment of positions, were better handled by the Department of Statutory Corporations, which falls under the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC).
“We are just a line ministry; we abide by instructions we receive from OPC, which is responsible for posting of staff to statutory corporations. The ministry acted on instructions from OPC,” Ndovi said in a telephone interview.
Department of Statutory Corporation spokesperson Flemings Nyirenda, referred the matter to Maneb, saying they are the competent authority to answer why and how Chiunda was redeployed.
On his part, Kaphale said last Wednesday that Maneb was better placed to respond to the issue, saying: “I only helped with the resolution of the case and as the matter is still unresolved, I would rather keep quiet knowing I do advise both government and Maneb and I have to be very careful on what I say.”
Another source, a member of the Maneb board of directors, said Chiunda’s issue was discussed at the committee level of the board, which found that he could not have come back to Maneb on de-secondment as he was no longer a Maneb employee.
He said the matter was expected to be discussed at a full board committee, but before the meeting was scheduled, the ministry wrote the letter to Chiunda telling him to report to Maneb for duties.n