The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has appealed to professional bodies to ensure their members are discharging their duties ethically, and avoid being found on the wrong side of the law.
The ACB’s call comes amid concerns from government that there are some unauthorised medical personnel that have continued to issue medical reports for compensation claims by injured workers under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Some legal practitioners were also named as collaborators in the scheme, which is feared to be deeply entrenched. In worst case scenario, some lawyers are accused of taking matters to court without instructions from the injured workers.
ACB principal public relations officer Egrita Ndala, in a response to a questionnaire this week, said the bureau was aware of the view that the professional bodies were supposed to ensure that their members act professionally.
“The relevant [professional] bodies should take action against their members who may be involved in the unethical conduct,” she said.
Ndala said, with no names mentioned [in the recent claims], it would be difficult for the ACB to move in on the matter.
In the same vein, some quarters well versed in law have complained about judge-shopping, which they say happens when lawyers take their matters to a particular registry of the High Court of Malawi.
But the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal and High Court of Malawi registrar Gladys Gondwe said, in a response to a questionnaire, that judge-shopping is unacceptable.
“But we know there are instances where owing to physical proximity or the quest for expeditious disposal of their matters, parties have registered matters in other registries than where they are otherwise expected to.
“With regard to the claims at hand, I am yet to ascertain if we have any formal communication from the Ministry [of Labour] or any concerned people on record,” she said.
Ministry of Labour spokesperson Christina Mkutumula told our sister newspaper, The Nation, a few days ago that despite a concern her ministry raised more than three months ago against unauthorised medical personnel and some lawyers conniving to defraud employers, the malpractice continues.
Government, through Ministry of Labour, issued a press statement alerting the public that there was a scheme aimed at defrauding employers and insurance companies.
Mkutumula, in a written response, said realising that the problem still existed; the ministry wanted to tackle it holistically by introducing a Workers’ Compensation Fund.
“The ministry believes that the introduction of the fund will address most of the challenges the current system is facing,” she said.
Mkutumula further observed that while the Workers’ Compensation Act exists to provide processes and pay injured workers without necessarily suing companies they work or worked for, the Act does not prevent the injured employees from suing their companies; hence, the proposal to come up with the Workers’ Compensation Fund to holistically deal with the problem.
She said there was a need for public awareness since the practice only favours lawyers who dupe gullible employees.
Malawi Law Society, responding to a questionnaire earlier on claims that some of its members were involved in the syndicate, said it may not have worked on allegations against its members because the claims were not substantiated.
“However, if there is any material to support any allegation against our member, we will no doubt take appropriate steps against such member,” the society’s secretary Martha Kaukonde said.
Society of Medical Doctors president Victor Mithi said in an earlier interview that if the ministry was raising this again, there was a possibility that the malpractices complained of were real and happening.
He described the issue raised as complex, appealing to ministries of Labour and Health, and the doctors’ society to work together for a lasting solution to the concerns being raised.
In the press statement issued earlier by the Ministry of Labour, it stated that it was concerned with the tendency among injured workers to opt to sue employers for negligence, instead of claiming compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
“The ministry is fully aware that an injured worker is entitled to claim damages in a civil suit independent of the Workers’ Compensation Act, where the injury has occurred due to negligence of the employer.
“However, it has been noted that a number of cases are initiated by third parties without knowledge of the injured worker whom they convince later to go by their scheme. Once the damages are paid, these agents are the major beneficiaries and very little is shared to the injured worker,” the ministry had complained.