The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal has set July 20 2017 to hear an appeal by Office of the Ombudsman challenging a High Court ruling that the office overstepped its mandate on the determinations relating to the controversial tractors.
The Ombudsman Martha Chizuma-Mwangonde ordered government officials to, among others, apologise for flawed procurement of the tractors from India and their subsequent disposal.
But in her ruling in January last year, which followed a judicial review on the Ombudsman’s determination, High Court Judge Fiona Mwale decided in favour of the State.
The Ombudsman has filed 10 grounds of appeal, including that the High Court erred in holding that the office had no jurisdiction to undertake the investigations after receiving complaints from complainants and in quashing the remedial order and actions on that basis.
The office also argues that the High Court erred in accepting construction of section 123 of the Constitution which renders the Office of the Ombudsman redundant.
The High Court is also being faulted for failing to appreciate the distinctive mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman which is to investigate and inquire as compared to the adjudicative mandate of the courts.
In an interview yesterday, spokesperson for the Office of the Ombudsman, Arthur Semba, said the High Court ruling had rendered the office redundant and, thus, a threat to the Constitution itself which created the office.
Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale challenged the authority of the Ombudsman in calling for officials to apologise to the people of Malawi as unreasonable, saying there was no independent assessment to verify the claims by the Ombudsman’s report that government had procured archaic tractors from India.
He also faulted the Ombudsman for dictating the course of action on how Parliament conducts its legislative business after she recommended that the National Assembly should exercise caution when dealing with similar loan authorisation Bills.
The Ombudsman has engaged Nyirenda & Msisha law firm to represent her in the matter. n