The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has started recalling some of its officers whose contracts were terminated in August following revelations that it violated some recruitment procedures.
In August, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) ordered MRA to replace 127 newly recruited revenue and customs officers after investigations uncovered swapping of successful candidates with those that did not qualify.
At least 71 of these dragged MRA to court for unfair dismissal, which the Industrial Relations Court in Mzuzu started hearing yesterday.
Christon Ghambi, lawyer for the fired employees, said deputy IRC chairperson Kingsley Mulungu has ordered that the ACB be added to the case, besides that 21 of his clients have been recalled to start working at MRA.
He said: “MRA applied to the court that ACB should be added to the case. Our argument was that the issue was between our clients and MRA because they never got any letter from ACB. So, we argued that ACB should not be added.
“However the court has directed that the bureau should be added. Meanwhile the matter will proceed on 22 January 2021. But MRA has almost obeyed our summons by cancelling the withdrawals and have called 21 of our clients back to work. We feel this is a success. But the battle is ongoing until everyone is served with justice.”
MRA director of corporate affairs Steve Kapoloma could neither confirm nor deny that the institution has started recalling the employees, saying, if that is what was happening, it was because MRA was following procedures as instructed by the ACB.
He said: “You recall that the recruitment was stopped by the ACB, which had given guidance to management on what should be done. In particular the ACB said those that met the criteria should be recruited.
“The MRA’s response was that we will follow the instruction from ACB. What I need to find out is if we have done that, and if we have, it means some people whose contracts were terminated will be recalled because they went through proper procedures.”
Kapoloma argued that they were not necessarily recalling the employees, but simply going back to the list and recruit those who went through proper procedures.
During a press briefing in Lilongwe, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba said they will work with MRA to defend the case, because it has no merit.
Matemba said the bureau conducted a four-month investigation into the recruitment process at MRA, following complaints of unfair recruitment process.
He said MRA interviewed 487 candidates and selected 125, whose names were then sent to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) for vetting.
But while NIS was still vetting the list, MRA went ahead to offer jobs to the 125 people, swapping 71 candidates with others who had attended the interviews but failed to make the grade.
Matemba said NIS was not supposed to vet the names. He said one of the 75 candidates (name withheld) whose name was on the disputed list went to court to obtain an injunction against the April restriction order, though he failed the interviews.
“Even if MRA was to recruit 400 candidates, the candidate’s grade would not have warranted him to be on the successful list because he was on number 445. But this is what happens when arrogance reaches intoxication levels,” he observed.
On August 8 2019, the MRA advertised, for revenue and customs officers, and after interviews, those deemed to have succeeded were offered employment on March 18 2020. They were expected to report for duties at the head office on May 1 2020.