Malawi Law Society (MLS) has cautioned the board of Malawi National Examinations Board (Maneb) to act independently as it deals with the instutition’s management in relation to examination papers leakage.
President Lazarus Chakwera on November 5 2020 directed the board of Maneb to fire the organisation’s management within a month and as well as those drafted into public service based on political loyalty or abused office.
The board of Maneb responded to Chakwera’s call by suspending Maneb executive director Gerald Chiunda who has since been summoned to appear before a disciplinary hearing answer to charges bordering on negligence.
But MLS, in a response to a questionnaire when asked if Chiunda and his team would face a fair disciplinary hearing when Chakwera already directed management’s firing, said under the Constitution, the President’s orders are required to be expressed in writing under his or her hand and confirmed by an official seal.
Said the lawyers’ body secretary Martha Kaukonde: “Without that there is no decision under the law by the State President for anyone, let alone Maneb, to implement.
“The speech in issue is just, but a political speech and should not be the basis upon which Maneb should manage the national crisis before it.”
Kaukonde said if Maneb follows its internal due process in handling the fiasco to the letter and with regard to natural justice, there should be no problem.
“If Maneb follows the presidential directive as stated in the speech, there is a problem since that directive is not legally before them. The best they can do is to act according to the law and regulations governing their institution.
“Having said that, it must be understood that Maneb is a creature of statute and has its own board which has oversight role on the institution independent of any external forces,” MLS stated.
Kaukonde said MLS would recommend to the board to abide by its internal guidelines and advise the State President to always refer to independent governance structures within statutory corporations.
Governance expert Makhumbo Munthali in an interview yesterday said the board of Maneb should stick to the law and should not be dictated by what the President said.
“The Maneb board should adhere to principles of natural justice, what is critical is to know what happened. If it can be proved there was negligence, appropriate action has to be taken,” he said.
Munthali said while it was inevitable for the top management at Maneb to explain what happened, the board should discharge its duties professionally.
“Let them do what is required of them. This is an issue to do with administrative law. The board should avoid political interference by being dictated with what the President said.
“If they feel they need more time to deal with this, they should be able to approach the President and tell him that,” Munthali said.
Asked yesterday if he had fears that his case was prejudiced,
Chiunda declined to comment, saying the public would hear his side of the story during the hearing.that his case was prejudiced,
Following discovery that some Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) papers had leaked as examinations were underway, Ministry of Education cancelled the examination, a decision that sparked riots as candidates protested in some parts of the country.
Maneb owned up the leakage, with Chiunda describing it as an “internal work”.
At a news conference in Lilongwe on November 4 2020, Minister of Education Agnes NyaLonje announced cancellation of the examinations and that fresh ones were to be administered in March 2021.
But the President in his November 5 2020 speech overruled that decision, ordering Maneb to administer the fresh examination no later than this January.
He said it was unfair for candidates to wait that long.
Meanwhile, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has suspended five of its senior officers.
According to an administrative notice signed by the authority’s commissioner general John Biziwick and dated November 13 2020, the officers affected are director of finance Sam Zuze, director of tax investigations Steve Kajombo, head of supply chain management George Mankhwala, , head of administration James chibisa and fleet services manager Widson Honde.
MRA board chair Vizenge Kumwenda referred the matter to Biziwick, who could not pick his mobile phones on several attempts yesterday when we wanted to find out basis of their suspensions.
Attorney General Chikosa Silungwe in September 2020 cautioned the new Tonse Alliance administration against poorly-drafted contracts, unlawful dismissals and redeployment of heads of government, ministries and agencies in order to save public funds.