The Office of the Ombudsman has said a report on the hiring of South African lawyers to help Malawi Electoral Commission in the election case is ready and will be released in few days.
The Office of the Ombudsman disclosed in an interview that it investigated and heard testimonies from individuals on the controversial hiring of the South African lawyers and the office was now busy editing the report to be out in few days’ time.
Ombudsman Martha Chizuma said in an interview that they first wanted to deal with findings on how the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration used Covid-19 funds, where it was reported there was abuse.
Chizuma, in an interview before the Covid-19 report was issued on November 27 2020, said it took her office time to come up with findings in the two cases as the matters were complex.
“We are editing and printing,” Chizuma said, adding that their plan was to deal with current cases they were working on that involved government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) by December end.
The Ombudsman’s office launched investigations in May this year into the former Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale’s alleged abuse of power and maladministration in engaging SA lawyers to represent MEC in the presidential election appeal case.
In March this year, MEC engaged a South Africa-based law firm—Mboweni Maluleke Inc Attorneys—to defend the case in the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal at a contract sum of $788 500 (about K600 million then).
Chief Justice Andrew Nyirenda denied the lawyers’ request to practise in Malawi because they were not physically present during their hearing. Later Mzuzu-based civil society organisation Youth and Society (YAS) moved the Ombudsman to probe Kaphale’s conduct.
In separate letters to Kaphale and the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA), dated May 19 2020, the Ombudsman asked the two to submit responses and documentation on the matter, respectively, by June 8 2020.
YAS had demanded the Ombudsman to probe the former AG on whether it was regular and in compliance with the PPDA Act to invite the lawyers into the country before a contract was settled.
In the Covid-19 funds matter, the Ombudsman launched an investigation into alleged lack of accountability, responsiveness and accessibility of services and funds under the multi-billion kwacha National Coronavirus Response Plan and other interventions.
In her findings released on November 27 2020, the Ombudsman ordered public officials who pocketed gratuitous allowances to pay back, ordered Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) publicise all donations received how they were utilised on radio and newspapers twice a week and ordered Ministry of Finance to close down its bank account on Covid-19 and deposit all funds to DoDMA account.
The Ombudsman had also ordered criminal investigations into the inflation of prices for goods and supplies for returnees and also ordered Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to develop a separate guideline for allowances of the taskforce by the end of 2020/21 financial year.
In a letter to Ministry of Disaster Management Affairs and Public Events Principal Secretary, dated July 1 2020, the Ombudsman said her office had learnt about allegations of lack of accessibility and responsiveness in implementation of the plan; hence the investigation.
Chizuma had said that the seriousness of the impact of the coronavirus needed no emphasis and that any act of maladministration in the implementation of the response plan and management of the funds could result into loss of lives.
The Covid-19 initial plan launched in April 2020 by the DPP administration had a lion’s share of K92.4 billion to protection and social support followed by food security with a K16.5 billion allocation.
The breakdown showed that coordination had an allocation of about K332.4 million, health cluster K15.4 billion, water, sanitation and hygiene cluster K11.9 billion.
Several development partners, including the Irish Government, UK Aid, United States Government and the World Bank also pumped in money.