Former Attorney General (AG) Kalekeni Kaphale and Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Justice Jane Ansah have agreed to repay K3.1 million public funds used to host South African lawyers whose hiring the Ombudsman said was illegal.
The Ombudsman had ruled that the lawyers were illegally hired in the May 2019 disputed presidential election case and ordered the former AG and MEC chairperson to personally pay K3.1 million for the decision.
The two have since notified government that the money should be deducted from their gratuity, the Office of the Ombudsman confirmed yesterday.
In an interview, Ombudsman Martha Chizuma confirmed that Ansah and Kaphale informed government they will repay the money through their terminal benefits.
She said: “Yes, I can confirm that we received communication to that effect from Kalekeni Kaphale Lawyers who are representing the former MEC chairperson and former AG.
“The communication was addressed to the AG [current] and Registrar of the High Court but copied to us. It was to the effect that that money that we directed should be paid back, should be deducted from their terminal benefits which their respective employers are owing them.”
Ansah could not be reached for comment yesterday but in a separate interview, Kaphale confirmed that he was complying with the directive.
He, however, hinted that the two could challenge the directive in court.
Said Kaphale: “We complied with the order. We are making arrangements but we are also applying for a review and we already gave a notice of that.”
The Ombudsman’s Office made the orders following an investigation on how MEC controversially hired Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys for a contract sum of $788 500 (about K600 million), half of which had to be paid in advance on or by March 13 2020, to represent it in the Supreme Court appeal of the presidential election case that followed the 2019 disputed elections.
The investigation, titled ‘Upholding Professionalism’ established that the South African lawyers were not paid eventually, but faulted the way procurement systems and laws were flouted.
The report accuses Kaphale and Ansah, a retired Justice of Appeal of the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal, of abusing their powers and breaching procurement laws in connection with the South African lawyers.
The Ombudsman ordered the duo to refund in equal amounts K3 155 248 that was expended on the SA lawyers through accommodation, beverages and meals at The President’s Hotel in Lilongwe.
“This money should be paid back to MEC and proof of payment should be submitted to my office by 28th April 2021,” she said.