Malawi Institution of Engineers (MIE) has queried the appointment of a non-engineering professional, Moses Mwenye, as acting chief executive officer for Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) replacing Engineer Alfonso Chikuni.
In an interview yesterday, MIE president Engineer Wilson Chirwa said institutions whose core business is engineering in nature should be led by engineers because they fully understand the requirements of such jobs.
He argued that institutions such as the Reserve Bank of Malawi have never had an engineer at their helm, but economists because of the nature of their business; hence, the need to do the same for water boards.
Said Chirwa: “Our position as MIE is that those appointed to institutions that are largely engineering in nature should be engineers. The CEO who is an engineer in such institutions has a deep understanding of the core business and technical nuances of the institution.”
He said MIE has raised the issue before with government and is hoping for a better response.
While the Water Works Act (1996) establishes the boards and provides provisions for appointment of CEOs, it does not, however, demand that engineers exclusively head these institutions.
However, Section 64 of the Malawi Engineering Institution Act (2019) states that where a written law requires the holders of an office to have the roles and responsibilities related to engineering, technology and an allied discipline, then that office shall be filled by a person who has been registered under this Act.
In a separate interview, Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Principal Secretary Grey Nyandule Phiri said MIE does not have the mandate to prescribe requirements for appointees to positions such as CEOs of water boards.
He said: “The first thing is that the person occupying that position now is simply acting. Secondly, MIE has no mandate to prescribe requirements for positions. They can’t dictate what qualifications one should have. If they have issues, let them engage the relevant ministry.”
In a separate interview, an MIE member confided that while the argument is that an engineering professional may have a better understanding of a predominantly engineering business entity, that should not exclude other professionals.
Said the engineer: “It is not just about having an engineer at the top. They should be groomed with business management skills. This rarely happens in our scenario.”
Chikuni was on December 9 2019 removed as LWB CEO and seconded to Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development as chief director responsible for irrigation and water development. During Chikuni’s tenure, LWB was transformed from a loss-making parastatal to a profit-making one and increased supply coverage from 69 percent in 2014 to 83.4 percent in 2018, among other milestones.