Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) has justified the recruitment of its embattled chief executive officer Henry Kachaje, saying he was the best candidate during selection interviews.
Mera’s position, contained in a 34-page submission to the High Court of Malawi as part of its application for an order stopping the Office of the Ombudsman from presenting findings of its report on Kachaje’s recruitment, sharply contradicts the Ombudsman’s finding that the hiring process was irregular.
In its report titled ‘Curbing Impunity’ whose presentation was curtailed midway following a court order Mera obtained, the Office of the Ombudsman said Kachaje did not have requisite qualifications as stipulated in the advertisement for the job and should not have been hired.
But Mera has defended his appointment, saying Kachaje did not just come out top in the selection interviews, but also possesses necessary qualifications and experience in line with the requirements of the post.
In the court application, Mera contends that the complainant, Richard Chapweteka, was one of the candidates interviewed for the post of Mera CEO.
In an affidavit sworn by Mera board chairperson Leonard Chikadya, Mera submits that Chapweteka was number five such that even if Kachaje was not picked for the job, he was certainly not the candidate to fill the position.
Interview scores recorded in the court file show that Kachaje got 89.83 percent and was followed by Engineer Alfonso Chikuni with 78.08 percent. The results also show that Ishmael Chioko was third with a score of 76.42 percent, Damien Kafoteka was fourth with 73.58 percent and Chapweteka fifth with 73.42 percent.
The list also shows that Charity Musonzo was sixth at 70.92 percent, Linda Phiri on seventh with 66.92 percent and Ted Nakhumwa eighth with 57.42 percent.
Reads part of the application: “That having examined Mr. Kachaje’s curriculum vitae and from his performance during the interviews, the board was convinced that the candidate did not only meet the set minimum qualifications for the position, but also possessed the relevant experience to carry out duties of the strategic position of the CEO for Mera.”
The court documents show that Mera indicated that Kachaje holds a master’s degree in business administration, an international post-graduate certificate in business consulting and organisational management and a diploma in downstream petroleum management, among others.
The Ombudsman’s report, which had already been shared by the time the restraining order was served, indicates that three separate complaints were lodged in relation to Kachaje’s appointment. The first complaint was filed by Chapweteka who claimed that one of the board members confided in him that he was the successful candidate and that the results were manipulated against him.
The second complaint, according to the Ombudsman’s report, came from Forum for National Development (FND) who alleged that Kachaje had no requisite qualification, particularly a master’s degree which was a requirement for this post and the other complaint came from the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament.
In her determination, Ombudsman Grace Malera faulted Mera for shortlisting Kachaje when none of the documents submitted in his application purportedly listed the said master’s degree.
The determination further revealed that the purported master’s degree, which was produced later after the interview, was from an institution that is not accredited.
Reads part of the determination: “Under the circumstances, as established by the inquiry, I must conclude that the board of Mera flouted all required due diligence processes in proceeding to interview Mr. Kachaje regardless.
“The board placed Mr. Kachaje in an advantaged position over the rest of the candidates by proceeding to shortlist him when he had not met the requisite criteria. This was not only manifest unfairness, it was actual unfairness and is tantamount to a maladministration.”
Malera said a person becomes certified for an academic qualification upon conferment of the academic qualification, which is usually indicated on a duly and authoritatively signed certificate. She observed that in the case of Kachaje the date is presented as August 26 2021.
She said: “Mr Kachaje was, therefore, erroneously, unprocedurally and irregularly recruited considering that even if he can be said to have been a holder of a master’s degree in business administration, the same was acquired after the fact, i.e. on 26th August 2021, after the offer was made on 19th August and he accepted it on 24th of August.”
But in its court submission, Mera maintained that there was nothing unprocedural in the appointment of the CEO as it is the prerogative of the board to consider when hiring one into the position.
Reads the court submission: “It should be pointed out that recruitment of the chief executive officer of Mera is a sole prerogative of the board and that there is no law that regulates the same.
“Further, the policy of Mera can be changed at any time by the board and that the complainant cannot point to any legitimate expectation planted to him that the recruitment of the CEO will be dictated in a particular manner.”
In the court application, filed by private practice lawyer Wapota Kita, Mera argues that even if one was to allege unfair labour practice in the recruitment of Kachaje, that practice would not adversely affect Chapweteka as he was not among the top three candidates in terms of performance during the interview.
Mera has also questioned the interest of FND in the matter, saying it has no direct interest. Mera said FND was “purely a busy body interfering with the due administration by Mera”.
The injunction is pending a judicial review, meaning that Kachaje remains CEO until the court fully resolves the matter.
In an interview on Wednesday, Malera said her office is still studying the court order and consulting to make a decision on whether to vacate the injunction.