The Industrial Relations Court in Mzuzu struck off the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) as one of the respondents in a case the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is being sued for unlawful termination of contracts.
In August 2020, the ACB ordered MRA to replace 127 newly-recruited revenue and customs officers after investigations uncovered swapping of successful candidates with those that did not qualify.
This did not go down well with the fired employees who went to court demanding MRA to reinstate or pay them K20.093 billion in compensation.
Ironically, MRA earlier applied to the court to add ACB as part of the respondents, and were added on December 17 2020, but the bureau re-applied to the court to be removed because neither MRA nor the applicants have served it with a statement of claim on the matter.
In an interview, lawyer for the fired employees Christon Ghambi confirmed that the ACB made an application on April 7, and Mzuzu Court assistant registrar Brian Sambo granted them their wish.
“Remember that last time MRA applied to have ACB added to the case, and we argued against that but the court added them. But now, the same ACB, which publicly said would help MRA in the case, went to court to be withdrawn from the case.
“The registrar granted the ACB its wish. But I wish to state that we have commenced the mediation process on the matter. Already, some of my clients were recalled by MRA; they started working and we are dealing with those that have not been recalled,” he said.
In a sworn statement, ACB chief legal and prosecutions officer Imran Saidi argued that when ACB uncovered the ‘illegality’ at MRA, it did not instruct the tax collecting body to withdraw the offer letters, but only made a recommendation to that effect.
He argued that ACB could explain the illegality as a witness without being added as a party.
During a press briefing in Lilongwe last year, former ACB director general Reyneck Matemba said they will work with MRA to defend the case, because it has no merit.
He said the bureau conducted a four-month investigation into the recruitment process at MRA, following complaints of unfair recruitment.
Matemba said MRA interviewed 487 candidates and selected 125, whose names were then sent to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) for vetting.
But while NIS was still vetting the list, MRA went ahead to offer jobs to the 125 people, swapping 71 candidates with others who had attended the interviews but failed to make the grade.
Matemba said NIS was not supposed to vet the names.
On August 8 2019, the MRA advertised for revenue and customs officers, and after interviews, those deemed to have succeeded were offered employment on March 18 2020. They were expected to report for duties at the head office on May 1 2020.