Thirty (30) of the 100 customs officers whose recruitment at Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) stopped pending an investigation have moved to question the legality of the graft-busting agency’s freeze order.
Court documents we have seen show that the new recruits want the High Court of Malawi to grant them an injunction to put aside the order and compel the public tax collector to proceed with processing their employment.
In their application, the 30 applicants, in a case recorded as Julius Makondesa and 29 others, argue that they attended interviews for posts of customs officers and revenue officers and were successful; hence, deserve to be recruited.
The applicants also indicate that the official employment offer letters from MRA show that they were due to start work on May 1 2020, but before they could report for work “the director general of the Anti-Corruption Bureau issued a restriction on dealing with recruitment process in respect of customs officers’ positions”.
Private practice lawyer Chancy Gondwe, who is representing the applicants, confirmed in an interview on Tuesday that his clients will argue in court that they participated in the “rigorous recruitment process” and were awarded employment fairly.
“I have interviewed them as my clients. Most of them deny the allegations. Most of them attended the interviews and met the requirement set by the MRA.
“Unless it is about others who were recruited, but those we are representing, around 32 of them, were exposed to the rigorous interviews and met the criteria set by MRA,” he said.
The lawyer said High Court Judge Healey Potani has since provided directions on how parties to the case should proceed with the matter, including ACB filing all documents by May 25 2020.
In a separate interview, ACB director general Reyneck Matemba also confirmed receiving summons on the matter and said the bureau will challenge the proceedings.
He said: “I can confirm that we were served with the summons last week in Blantyre. The matter is coming on the 20th of May 2020 for hearing.”
MRA moved to recruit about 100 custom and revenue officers, according to information.
But in an April 15 2020 order, ACB stopped MRA from proceeding with the process or starting a fresh recruitment exercise until the investigation is completed.
When The Nation broke the story on April 17 2020, sources confided that ACB acted on a complaint by a group of anonymous MRA employees and some of those who attended interviews at MRA but claim to have been bypassed for selection governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) functionaries but allegedly did not attend the interviews.by those connected to
Some of the DPP functionaries named in the complaint as having influenced the recruitment exercise included Minister of Homeland Security Nicholas Dausi, who doubles as DPP spokesperson.
But in an interview at the time, he could neither confirm nor deny allegations that DPP supporters were among those given advantage.
Said Dausi: “Those are questions MRA should answer. The problem is if anyone has a name like Dausi or is a member of DPP, even if they have right qualifications, people think they should not get any government jobs.”
Under Section 23 of the Corrupt Practices Act (CPA), the ACB has powers to issue a restriction order to any public institution while it investigates any alleged crimes under the Act.
Section 49 (a) of the same Act gives ACB powers to prosecute anyone who is in contempt of the order.