Former clerk of Parliament (CoP) Matilda Katopola yesterday testified that she declined to return to her position in 2012 even after President Joyce Banda refused to fire her because the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) headed by the Speaker had already made the decision.
Katopola sued government in the Industrial Relations Court (IRC) for constructive dismissal in 2012 and is claiming over K500 million (US$1 199 040) in benefits.
However, the State yesterday argued that she had continued to receive her benefits such as school fees for her child and use of the official vehicle during the period she was supposedly dismissed from her position as CoP.
In her testimony, Katopola said she only received a letter from the Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda to return to work after she took the matter to the IRC.
However, her demands for an explanation on why the PSC had recommended for her dismissal and sent her on compulsory leave fell on deaf ears.
“After I went to court, I received a letter that the President had rejected my dismissal. The letter was dated May 28 2012, but the Speaker said he only received it on July 16 2012 then proceeded to write me to return to work on July 17 2012. But my view was that I had been removed and circumstances surrounding my dismissal had not changed,” she said.
Katopola testified that she was further surprised to receive a letter of interdiction from the PSC due to “abscondment and neglect of duty”, yet it was the same office which had sent her home on compulsory leave.
“You don’t interdict someone who has already been dismissed. I faced hostilities from the word go from Parliament staff and MPs [members of Parliament]. So, I thought this time it would be safer for me to stay home. It was in bad faith that someone could force me to go back to Parliament without details of why I was removed in the first place,” Katopola contended.
However, during cross-examination, lead lawyer from the Attorney General’s office, Kellious Mlenga, argued that while she was at home and considering herself dismissed, Katopola claimed benefits in fees for her child and use of her official vehicle, as late as January, 2013.
The State tendered as evidence a memo from the National Assembly finance office dated August 23 2012 in which Katopola was requesting the office to pay her son’s fees.
But in response, Katopola said she made the claims and was duly paid pending the calculation of her final benefits.
The IRC deputy chairperson Chimwemwe Kamowa adjourned the case to a date to be decided where the State is expected to call its witnesses.