Is the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) top job a poisoned chalice? It looks so. For how would one explain controversies that never seem to leave the organisation’s chief executive officers (CEO). Hardly has the former Mera CEO Collins Magalasi been cleared of wrong doing by the courts than his successor Henry Kachaje was thrown into the middle of another court battle. Of course, for very different reasons.
Magalasi is accused of using Mera funds to pay for accommodation for former governing Democratic Progressive Party officials. He is alleged to have sourced K10.5 million from the organisation to fund political activities on the pretext that the money would be used for Mera sensitisation campaigns. Magalasi has denied the fraud and abuse of office charges placed against him. As of September 30 2021 the State had paraded three of the eight witnesses it has lined up against Magalasi.
On the other hand, Kachaje, a motivational speaker who has been in office since August 24, 2021, is said to have been irregularly appointed as CEO. It all started with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament querying the Mera board for shortlisting, interviewing and appointing Kachaje when he allegedly did not meet the minimum qualification for the position as indicated in the advertisement for the vacancy. The minimum qualification for the job was a masters’ degree. And those who queried Mera board alleged that Kachaje did not submit the required masters’ degree during the recruitment process. But Kachaje told Weekend Nation on October 15 2021 that he has a masters’ degree in business administration, a post graduate diploma in business consulting, an economics degree and several other professional qualifications.
After being queried by PAC, Mera Board chairperson Leonard Chikadya on September 2 2021 wrote the parliamentary committee he was making arrangements to submit copies of all academic certificates to be delivered to Parliament.
Besides PAC’s query, the Office of the Ombudsman (OoO) launched a public inquiry into the allegations of the unprocedural recruitment of the former Economics Association of Malawi president.
On Wednesday this week, OoO was scheduled to present findings of its report on Kachaje’s recruitment. At the press conference, Ombudsman Grace Malera had just started presenting the report when her office was served with an injunction restraining her or the OoO from presenting the report alleging that Malera was conflicted, after she applied for the same job but was not shortlisted. OoO accordingly complied with the court order.
But a few questions are in order. If the Mera board submitted copies of Kachaje’s certificates, including the much-required masters’ degree to PAC and the OoO, would it (Mera board) not have saved itself from the embarrassment it has invited upon itself? Mera board has sought a court injunction stopping OoO from presenting the report. But that is only a temporary arrangement. The injunction will not save Mera Board or Kachaje. If anything, the injunction will only invite more ridicule on them. Only the missing masters’ certificate will save both. Soon, the matter will be in court again when the whole world will still know who is fooling who.
For the past one year, the position of CEO for the State-owned National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) has been in no better position than that of Mera’s top job. Suspended as Nocma’s CEO on October 30 2020, pending disciplinary hearing, Gift Dulla remains so exactly a year later. Dulla, alongside director of finance Richaerd Milanzi, were initially suspended for 14 days pending investigations and disciplinary hearing into alleged financial and procurement mismanagement.
The board then appointed deputy CEO Hellen Buluma as acting CEO before she was reverted to her substantive position of deputy CEO. The question is: for how long will Nocma operate without a CEO?
It looks like the Nocma top job is another poisoned chalice in the Tonse Alliance administration. And for both the Mera and Nocma CEO jobs we are in for a long haul.